When I heard on the radio this morning that George Osborne was removing child benefit from high earners, I winced, thinking that the £1,000 per year to be taken away would be a bit of a blow to those on salaries over £44,000.You weren’t the only one.
But when I later discovered that benefits would be cut for all children, not just the first, I realised that this would be both hugely painful – and go against all that the Tories claim to support.Oh, noes! Think of the chiiillldrreeeeen!
Child benefit is currently paid at £20.30 per week for the first child (equivalent to £1,055 per year, tax free). For each subsequent child, the mother receives £13.40 per week (£697 a year). So, for a family with three children, the mother receives £2,450 per year; for four children, £3,145; and for five children £3,840. In other words, if you're a high-rate taxpayer with three children, Osborne would take away the equivalent of over £4,000 in gross salary. And for each subsequent child it would be another £1,000 equivalent.So? If you can’t afford to have as many dogs or cats as you want, no-one would argue that the taxpayer should fund them. Why is it different with kids?
And spare me the ‘our future workforce’ argument. Most of them aren’t working now.
Some may believe that, to a high earner, child benefit is a luxury.Then….don’t have one.
But I have five children, and I know just how difficult it is to make ends meet with a larger family.
For larger families, costs such as clothes and food multiply. It costs £240 per term for my three older children to travel to senior school, for example. And even little things like swimming classes, football practice and music lessons all mount up when multiplied: not to mention the "luxuries" like eating out (one family meal at McDonald's: £20), or the annual holiday (flights out of the question).My heart bleeds for the junior Harkers, having to forgo the swimming lessons and music appreciation that I’m paying for…
And to those living in the south of England, or in northern conurbations like Manchester, the inflated cost of housing cannot be ignored.Then move. Hell, are you saying you couldn’t possibly post vacuous left-wing polemic to the ‘Guardian’ servers just as easily from a cheaper area?
Ironically, the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, was speaking today at a Conservative party conference fringe debate entitled: "We're going to make this the most family friendly country in Europe."I bet you aren’t on much less!
Duncan Smith has four children, so he should know the impact of the changes. But after giving his speech, in which he made no mention of them, he rushed off without taking questions. I caught up with him as he was getting into his taxi and asked his thoughts: he simply shrugged his shoulders and said that we're living in difficult times and have a huge national debt to sort out. When I pressed him he said dismissively that £44,000 is twice the national average salary, and then sped off.
That statistic may be correct, but it doesn't mean that those on this income are swimming about in disposable income – in fact, it's likely that those with large families are barely keeping their heads above the water.Then perhaps they shouldn’t have jumped in, rather than expecting everyone else to pay for that lifeboat?