MRS V BELL’S letter about her experience as a 1970s single parent certainly exposes the hardship of those days (HAS, Nov 13).

My mother spent years working for the sickness benefit department, and my father for the Labour Exchange – so I recall such instances as Mrs Bell describes. Women going to the court each week and often being told that no money had arrived from their estranged partner and there was no alternative source of cash.

The Child Support Agency came many years later.

Given that errant husbands could be easily traced via their National Insurance number, one would have thought the court could have ordered “stoppage from pay”, which would have guaranteed regular payment.

Mrs Bell’s irresponsibility comment is spot on about today’s parents buying items like cigarettes while pleading poverty. Perhaps we need an American food stamps system, which covers genuine household/food items only. The checkout till would flag prohibited items if the benefits recipient tried obtaining cigarettes or booze. That would include expensive phones, and the frequent use of taxis after shopping trips or visits to the nail bar.

GB Butler, Stockton-on-Tees.