Another milestone birthday: this time for the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

Forty years ago this week, Norman Kirk's Labour Government introduced the DPB. It was a benefit that was paid to women with dependent children who had lost the financial support of a husband, to fathers who were the sole parent of a child or children and to unmarried mothers.

Before the DPB, women - and men - just had to get out there and work if they wanted their families to eat. Unmarried women who became pregnant had enormous obstacles to overcome if they wanted to keep their children: the financial burden of raising a child alone as well as societal disapproval meant most women felt they had to give their child away to a "deserving couple".

I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of having to give up your child. Losing your child would be like losing a part of your soul.


I am grateful I became an unmarried mother in a more liberal and enlightened age. I never needed the DPB as I was always able to find work and Kate's dad was a very involved father, but it was comforting to know that it was there if circumstances changed.

Over time, the DPB has evolved - it's now the sole parent benefit - and critics of the benefit may feel their concerns were justified. There has been an increase in the number of single mothers; it is easier for men to walk away from their obligations; some people take the benefit rather than find work. But I believe that to be a very small minority.

Most men and women who receive the benefit are on it for a limited time. Most parents would far rather be providing for their families than trying to survive on a limited income.

The checks and balances National has introduced will have sent a strong message to any welfare malingerers that a benefit for life is not an option. I'm grateful to live in a country where there's a safety net for vulnerable children - because after all, that's who the DPB really benefits.