Say No to £2.5 Billion from the Nation’s Children says Women’s Income Network
There are principles worth fighting for and Universal Child Benefit is one of them. It is top of the list for the Women’s Income Network (WIN) the brand-new coalition of campaigning voices and women’s charities including Fawcett, the Child Poverty Action Group and leading academics.
Universal Child Benefit unites a consensus across the political divide as society’s only universal recognition of the costs of bringing up children. It acknowledges the typically- lifelong financial impact of motherhood with its downward pull on women’s pay and prospects. It is the progressive response to the truth universally acknowledged that household income is not equally shared but that money paid direct to mothers is likely to be spent on children, a premise accepted by all governments since the Second World War.
Not any more.
The Coalition Government’s plan to trim this covenant for children by shearing Child Benefit entitlement from households with a higher-rate taxpayer in 2013 will corral non-earning mothers who stay at home or who are lower-rate taxpayers into Hobson’s choice – surrender Child Benefit, or retain it, with the amount recovered in income tax from their partner.
This will immediately affect the balance of power and women’s bargaining strength in households, inevitably risking pressure on mothers to surrender Child Benefit even where it is the mother’s only guaranteed income; an additional peril for mothers trapped in violent relationships through financial dependency.
The receipt of money is not neutral but gendered. It matters to whom it is paid and how much.
The intrusive new duty on the higher-rate taxpayer to report if a partner receives Child Benefit will bring in penalties for non-disclosure.
The loss of Child Benefit with its automatic right to Basic and Second State Pension accrual undermines the new principle to equal state pension entitlement which the Women and Pensions Network, the forerunner of WIN, worked so hard to achieve in the Pensions Acts 2007-8.
Illogically, a single-earner household on £43,000 loses entitlement to Child Benefit whereas a dual earner household bringing home £80,000 might not. “Ill-thought-out” was Janet Daley’s mildest comment in Sunday’s Telegraph.
This was Exchequer Secretary David Gauke’s reply to Anne Begg’s Parliamentary Question on 23 November 2010, tabled for the Women’s Income Network:
Anne Begg: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many women who are (a) basic rate taxpayers and (b) non-earners will no longer receive child benefit as a result of proposed changes to the eligibility criteria.
David Gauke: Women will only stop receiving child benefit if another member of their household is a higher rate taxpayer and the family chooses to cease their child benefit claim. All other mothers in such households will continue to receive child benefit with the relevant monies recovered via the income tax system.
Cue confusion. Which family member has the casting vote to cease claiming Child Benefit? What if the Child Benefit is for children from a prior relationship for whom the current partner has no financial responsibility ? Why could the Treasury not quantify how many women will be affected?
Paying Child Benefit to all mothers is the best way to target help on children, protect families in times of crisis, and ensure that money reaches poorer children.
Chip away at this principle and you open the floodgates to increased gender dependency and child poverty.