Stop Whining about Child Benefit Already.

So you earn £50,000 and you’re not going to receive child benefit any more. Or you have a household income of £100,000+ and you won’t receive your benefit next year?

Well, excuse me for a nano-second while I try (and fail) to come up with an ounce of sympathy for you.

I am so cross reading middle-class whining about how tough people are going to find it living without their child benefit – which is being withdrawn from families with a household where one partner earns over £50,000, or where both combined earn more than £100,000.

Seriously – am I missing something?

You earn £50,000. And you’re upset about losing out on £20 a week (or more like £60 if you’ve got three children).

Frankly, if you earn that sort of money, or if you and your partner combined have a household income in six figures, I’m not sure you can make a convincing argument for needing state benefits.

You might enjoy it. You almost certainly like it. You probably comfortably expanded your lifestyle to spend that additional few pounds a week from the government. Heck, you might even need to make adjustments once the money isn’t there – but you don’t NEED it. Not in the way someone needs Housing Benefit, or free education, or fire engines.

Reading about this issue last night, I did some rough and ready maths. Someone earning £50,000 a year takes home around £3,000 a month. Assuming they’re on a regular mortgage of 3x their salary, that means a mortgage payment of around £750, leaving more than enough to pay for food, utilities, childcare and basic household expenses, surely? (And if you’re a couple borrowing £250,000, your mortgage payment would be around £1,400 – which sounds about right to me)

After all, there are millions of families making ends meet on far less than this.

Here’s the thing – there’s a better than fair chance we’ll lose child benefit when the changes come in. And yes, it niggles a bit that as a single parent I only need to earn £50k before I’m affected while my married friends could earn £99k and retain their full benefit.

But I do also realise how ludicrous a statement like, “I only need to earn £50,000” sounds to most people in this country in 2012.

My child has everything she needs, and more besides.

She’s loved (of course) and she has a roof over her head, and food in her belly. She’s being well educated, and she takes part in lots of activities to keep her entertained, from cinema trips and meals out to holidays, guitar lessons and drama club. Our house has broadband, and satellite TV. We have several computers and laptops and tablets and mobile phones.

If we had to, it wouldn’t be hard to find something we could cut back on to save £20 a week. And not every family is fortunate enough to be able to say that.

Of course, I  think the things we spend money on are important – I don’t want to think of life without Twitter, or box-sets of Gossip Girl downloaded from iTunes. But I certainly don’t feel the government is obliged to help fund those things.

So let’s preserve child benefit for those families who really do need it, and stop whinging if we can’t afford the latest coat from Boden, shall we?

 

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

122 Comments

  1. Nicki Cawood
    7th November 2012 / 10:56 am

    This! Just this!
    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Great post.

  2. 7th November 2012 / 11:09 am

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Really, I couldn’t! We’re going through some major changes here at ours and will have to cut back on a few things but I keep saying (to myself and the OH) and least we CAN make changes. At least there are things we can cut without us going hungry or not being able to pay the mortgage. I think we forget what is a need and what is a want.
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    • 7th November 2012 / 11:13 am

      Ah, thanks. Yes, absolutely – I’d like the money – it’s free money, who wouldn’t like it? But do I need it? Probably not.

  3. 7th November 2012 / 11:11 am

    I don’t think many people are actually complaining about losing it, if they are. The majority of complaints stems from the fact that the calculation of who loses it is unfair – a single person needs to earn more than £50k, yet a couple can each earn up to that, generating a combined income of £98k for their house, and still receive it. This is where the complaints are made – it should be a household income, not a personal income.

    • 7th November 2012 / 11:13 am

      I agree, but it’s hard to be TOO outraged and argue I need a state benefit on an income of £50k. I don’t.

      • 7th November 2012 / 11:16 am

        No, I don’t need it, although it does get used, and we may have to make the odd cut back (a couple of bottles of wine less – hardly backbreaking stuff). But why then, do couples on almost twice what my husband earns not get it taken away too?
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        • 7th November 2012 / 11:17 am

          Also, for the record, if it means more money spent on eg healthcare etc, I am more than happy not to receive it. I just wish it was a blanket rule for families, not personal income 🙂
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          • 7th November 2012 / 11:18 am

            I agree. It definitely niggles with me that it’s not fair. But so little about single parenting is fair, grrrr.

  4. Wendy
    7th November 2012 / 11:13 am

    Well said. We have been one of those families where we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from and we used to get daily food parcels from the Salvation Army.

    • 7th November 2012 / 12:34 pm

      Oh Wendy, I hope things are a little better for you now.

      • wendy
        7th November 2012 / 3:53 pm

        Hi Sally, things are slightly better thanks not brilliant but better 🙂

  5. Sarah Finn
    7th November 2012 / 11:16 am

    Took the words right out of my mouth! We manage on £25k with a 9 & 13 year old, still manage all activities and don’t do branded clothing. OH goes to college, which we pay for. Bloody unbelievable. Thanks for airing the subject.
    Well, hello welcome to the real world!

    • 7th November 2012 / 12:34 pm

      Thanks!

  6. domestic goddesque
    7th November 2012 / 11:20 am

    I have no intention of complaining about losing my Child Benefit, but I do think that there needs to be a better way of calculating it. It is fundamentally wrong that a couple, one of whom is a stay-at-home parent, should lose it when two working parents can keep it. The number of children hasn’t changed.

    • 7th November 2012 / 12:34 pm

      The inequity of it is annoying, I agree. As a single parent, I’m losing out more than a married couple, for example. But it doesn’t take away the fact that I don’t feel particularly in need of a state benefit.

  7. 7th November 2012 / 11:23 am

    I completely agree! You’re right that people do expand their lifestyle to spend their income. They will have to make changes, but the Government needs to save this money.

    Excellent post.

    Claire
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    • 7th November 2012 / 12:35 pm

      My lifestyle always, always expands to account for every penny I have. sod’s law.

  8. 7th November 2012 / 11:34 am

    I’m really not fussed that I’m going to loose it. Yes it would be lovely to have it (who is going to turn down free money!), but every sector of society is going through cuts so as someone better off I’m not going to complain. But, I really want the government to change it to a household income rather than an individual. This would mean all those households that bring in more than us, but have 2 lower rate tax payers rather than 1 higher rate would also loose it – which would mean more money freed up for those who really need it.
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    • 7th November 2012 / 4:49 pm

      I’m all in favour of free money, as a rule.

  9. slipons
    7th November 2012 / 11:37 am

    The issue is this is a tax on aspiration, it creates marginal tax rates of circa 73% and is starting to make people think why bother! I took the below text from mumsnet forum, this is without the case that 2 earners on £49K keep all child benefit. I have no issue with helping the low paid, but draw the line when we are been incentivised to become lower paid!

    http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/a1604053-to-think-that-child-benefit-cuts-are

    How can everyone say that £50,000 is a lot of money to bring up a family. The big secret is that lower paid families are topped up quite a bit. According to a benefits calculator (turn2us) and using my own family (4 kids) as an example lets see – who is better off?

    Husband earning £50,000 full time, Wife earns 8,000 part time (>16hrs at present) Childcare £140 a week. After tax and national insurance they get £7953.55 and £35782.05. TOTAL about £43,000. They get £0 in tax credits – plus £0 child benefit. TOTAL: 0. OVERALL TOTAL about £43,000. Grant child at uni next year: ZERO.: UNTAXED grant.

    Husband earning £20,000 full time, Wife earns 8,000 part time (>16hrs at present) Childcare £140 a week. After tax and national insurance they get £7953.55 and £16134.55. TOTAL about £24,000. They get £12,224.25 in tax credits -plus £3,154.64 child benefit. TOTAL about: £15,000. OVERALL TOTAL about £39,000. Grant for child at uni next year: £2,416 untaxed.

    Surprising isn’t it. Should mu husband work part time? Should I leave him? What a couple penalty!

    • 7th November 2012 / 12:02 pm

      I can see where you’re coming from but I suppose from my perspective, I’d be thankful my family could earn £43k rather than worrying if someone on benefits with a particular family set-up received almost as much.

      I’ve never claimed a state benefit aside from CB, or received tax credits or anything of that nature, and I’m deeply thankful for that.

  10. 7th November 2012 / 11:48 am

    I’ll politely disagree with you, as I am one of the people you so charmingly say has been “whining” about it.

    The main issue I have with any alteration to child benefit, whether it judges individual or joint income, is the iniquity of it. In amongst all my whining, I have frequently pointed out that the government WRITES off over £1bn a year in incorrectly overpaid working family tax credits (figures per the National Audit Office).

    Sorting out a broken system that costs tax payers £1bn a year, rather than taking child benefit from thousands of people based on their gross income and completely ignoring their take home pay should be the priority.

    If 2 people earn £25k, their take home will be £4,000 higher than an individual earning £50k. That’s £96 a week better off before you even start looking at anything else like lost child benefit. I would have nothing against a fair amendment to the system but this isn’t it.

    The more children you have, the less likely it is both parents can work, due to childcare costs, so proposals to cap child benefit at 2 children are even stranger. If my wife went to work full time, our joint income minus the childcare costs would cover the mortgage and the council tax and thats about it. And our mortgage isn’t even excessive, it’s certainly more than £750 you mention, but not excessively so. Childcare? It would cost us around £2,900 a month at the moment due the age of our kids.

    You won’t find a satellite subscription in our house, we don’t spend more than £17 a month combined on both our mobile phone contracts, we don’t go out to the cinema or for dinner regularly, we’ve not spent more than £600 on a family holiday in the last 5 years. If we cut back more, we’ll end up cutting the books we buy for the kids or what we spend on clothing for them or the food we buy to eat.

    Our money is spent living where we do, to give the kids what we perceive is the best environment to grow up in that we can we can, and to that end the 50 odd quid we get in child benefit is pretty handy thank you very much.

    Yes I realise it is worse, much worse, for a lot of people. But it is also better for a lot of people too. Some of this is through personal choice (theirs or ours), some geographical circumstance but fundamentally to me it comes down to the point I started with: is it equitable to cut child benefit in an arbitrary manner when many times this amount is lost within the existing tax system due to inefficiency?

    If your answer to that is yes, we really do have conflicting opinions on the matter 🙂
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    • 7th November 2012 / 12:37 pm

      You may indeed politely disagree. Tis what the world’s made of. I just don’t think anyone earning that kind of money is particularly in need of state benefits – I tend to think they should be modifying their lifestyle. But yes, you’re absolutely right that any cut should be accompanied (or prefaced, ideally) with efficiency improvements in other areas.

  11. 7th November 2012 / 11:54 am

    Completely agree. I read a Guardian article last week with a woman complaining that child benefit cuts will DEEPLY affect her 60k a year family…. eff off.

    I understand that it’s a safety net for many people. Especially for mums who aren’t earning, it’s money directly into our accounts, and is sometimes seen as spending money that doesn’t need to be explained away to the other half. I felt similar last year when we were affected by the child tax credit cuts, but I soon got used to the idea that that money was never MINE in the first place, and we adjusted our budget accordingly.

    For the past year, we have been living on £25k salary, in London. I have little sympathy for those affected by the CB cuts. After last year’s cuts, the only benefit we receive is child benefit. To say that your finances will be DEEPLY affected when you earn 60K is rubbish, all you need to do to adjust is get rid of your Sky subscription.
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    • 7th November 2012 / 12:38 pm

      I do think living on £25k in London must be tough though, hats off to you.

  12. 7th November 2012 / 11:56 am

    I don’t entirely agree, and thats because I think you’re generalising too much about who is complaining and why.

    I’m on just under 50k a year. I get 2700 a month after tax. My rent and bills and childcare and getting to work in London eats nearly all of that up each month.
    I grew up with nothing, so I count myself lucky that I can rent a house rather than needing social housing. I count myself lucky that I can buy new clothes rather than second hand. I count myself lucky I can put food on the table. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to ‘moan’ about benefit cuts.

    I don’t *NEED* child benefit to survive but that isn’t the issue. That is not why I complain. The issue is that this change is unfair. Single working parents will lose out if they earn 50k, when a couple can earn up to 100,000. Single parents and the disabled are being punished at every turn when it comes to the benefit changes, and that is not ok. THAT is what I have complained about, and will continue to complain about.

    It’s not a case of me being privileged to earn enough to survive and still whining about losing 20 quid, its a case of being angry that benefits for children and the disabled are being targeted at all. Cuts are being made in the wrong places, full stop.

    So I think I’ll continue to moan about benefit cuts 🙂

    • 7th November 2012 / 12:39 pm

      I definitely do see the unfairness in the single v married thing but for me the issue of not needing is more important – as you say, you don’t need that money. Nor do I. So I’d feel odd complaining, and behaving as though I’m entitled to state support. I don’t think I am. Certainly, it’s a lot easier to get passionate about other cuts to those out of work, suffering from disability, in vulnerable positions… but moaning about the government is probably allowed on all counts, I grant you.

      • Bob
        8th November 2012 / 7:58 pm

        There’s an assumption through all of this that these benefits are because people needed extra money. One of the reasons for Child Benefit was so that everyone (rich or poor) got something from their contributions. If we’re changing the concept of Child Benefit (which I’m not necessarily disagreeing with actually) to help keep those in poverty our of it, then these cuts are not the answer. The additional cap on 2 children is even worse and will clobber some of the people who can least afford it.

  13. Nikki
    7th November 2012 / 11:57 am

    Completely agree Sally. There once was a time when the kids were babies that we did NEED it – after mat leave had finished & my job wouldn’t have me back (“Full time or no time” – but don’t get me started on that) and before I started freelancing. Since working however we’ve managed to put the money up each month for the kids uni (or other) funds because thanks to the government, the cost of that alone will be ridiciulous. Might as well save it and give it back to them later in life.

    When it stops next year, we’ll continue to save that out of our own funds – but we’re lucky to be able to do that. There are so many families who would love to be able to do the same.

    • 7th November 2012 / 4:49 pm

      Yes, I think lots of families do as you do, and squirrel the cash away – but I have to ask whether that’s a ‘need’ or a ‘nice to have’.

      • Nikki
        7th November 2012 / 5:08 pm

        It’s a definite nice to have I’d say. However given how expensive uni tutition fees will be by the time the kids are eligible, and if they want to do so, I don’t feel bad about taking it now and saving it until they need it later.

  14. 7th November 2012 / 12:06 pm

    I will politely disagree too, although I haven’t whinged about it – because I think any move that chips away at universalism is a dangerous thing.

    This article has a bit of a Scottish slant and was prompted by proposed changes to prescription charges rather than child benefit, but it sums up more eloquently than I can why it’s important that we don’t start means testing everything.

    http://reidfoundation.org/2012/09/weve-had-the-debate-universalism-won/
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    • 7th November 2012 / 12:40 pm

      Ha! Having had the privilege of a Scottish education, I think many things are handled differently North of the border, but I fundamentally don’t think people are entitled to state support to bring up children if they have the means to raise them themselves. But I accept others might view it differently 🙂

      • 8th November 2012 / 3:40 pm

        Do you then extend that logic to say that if you can theoretically afford private healthcare you shouldn’t be allowed to use the NHS? Or if you can theoretically afford to privately educate your children you shouldn’t be allowed to send them to state school? As soon as you start assessing one thing on financial basis, I think it’s a slippery slope to more and more things becoming means tested and we’ll suddenly realise that all the safety nets are gone from under us.

        I agree with a couple of posters further down who have talked about prioritising your anger and energy (by your I mean ‘one’ rather than you personally). While us lot in the middle squabble over our twenty quid a week, the super-wealthy and the big companies are creaming off millions at the top, and no-one is batting an eyelid.
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  15. 7th November 2012 / 12:11 pm

    Yes and no.

    We’re going to lose it, and I’m angry.

    Not because we will suddenly be reduced to penury, not because I think we are struggling (we watch our pennies, but I know perfectly well how comfortable we are compared to an awful lot of people. I’d be even happier if I thought out loss would contribute to needier families’ welfare, but I doubt it.

    Because it’s dishonest and it’s unfair. It’s not about raising income, it’s about being able to say “look, we’re hurting the rich too”. I don’t object to means testing; I do object to the way this is implemented. Why is it whingeing to ask questions about that? I don’t get it.

    • 7th November 2012 / 12:42 pm

      It is unfair, I agree. But that’s not what I mean by whinging – it’s the articles by women journalists who complain about how will they manage without this money when they “only” earn £60k and they need every penny for their children’s expensive shoes and coats and the like. Give me a break. THAT is whinging.

      • 7th November 2012 / 1:02 pm

        I haven’t seen many articles like that, but anyone saying things along those lines deserves short shrift.

        I *have* seen plenty along the lines of “why does someone with twice our disposable income keep it, my children need expensive shoes just as much as theirs”, which perhaps is tactless when expensive shoes for many are unattainable, but is still a reasonable question.

        Off the top of my head, this policy has made changes to the principles of individual taxation, user anonymity at HMRC and the whole system of universal benefits. It’s creating a massive new workload for the taxman. Yes, some people with impressive lack of self awareness may be wittering about Boden coats, but there is more to this than their wardrobe woes.
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      • Beadzoid
        8th November 2012 / 2:08 pm

        The problem that I have on this point is that the argument constructed has an element of the ‘straw man’ about it. Yes, these women may exist and have been published in a way that depicts them has whining – they may even have genuinely and unfairly been whining. But to use a minority group to represent the whole cohort of those who will lose the benefit is to oversimplify the arguments.

        We won’t lose it, but I would be genuinely angry if we did (alas, we are not rich enough). As an initial aside I do agree with universality, but that is minor compared to my main issues with this policy. It is unfair to squeeze pennies in this way when far larger savings can be made from other groups or funds that could afford it more. The wasting of millions on an unnecessary top-down re-organisation of the NHS (yes, an improvement in efficiency is most definitely needed, but talk about using a hammer to crack a nut); tax cuts for the very rich; overseas aid to fast-growing economies (and I’m not advocating losing all aid, just where it’s blatantly not needed). I could go on, but I won’t or this may well become an essay 🙂

        Instead I’ll just leave it on something that long ago struck me about the way this government is operating in regards to cuts. What happens is that we all end up arguing among each other – why should this group have that when we don’t have it? Why should this group have that when the country is in such a mess? How about instead we look at the people who really wouldn’t notice if we closed their tax loopholes other than to note that they couldn’t afford another holiday home to add to their vast portfolio? They should be paying it anyway, but they can afford to find ways around it. Of course there has to be a balance before the quelling of aspiration kicks in, but as it stands those who truly could afford to lose £20,000 a week, let alone £20 are not doing so. And it’s them that should be targeted, not the squeezed low-middle brackets. But then the super-rich are the ones who are influencing and formulating the policies, and the arguments we are having, well it’s classic divide and rule isn’t it?

          • Beadzoid
            9th November 2012 / 2:50 pm

            Thank you, most kind Ruth. Especially from one who’s political postings (only recently found) I very much admire 🙂

        • Bob
          8th November 2012 / 8:04 pm

          Hurrah,

          The divide and rule agenda is my overwhelming sense from all of this too. Here’s a nice article on that topic.
          http://notsobigsociety.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/strivers-and-strugglers/

          Here’s a quote that resonates…”The ‘benefit claimants’ v ‘hard worker’ dynamic is a very toxic one. The government has become very used to divide and rule and this is a further demonstration – and is particularly nefarious in a time of high unemployment and particularly high youth unemployment.”

          • Beadzoid
            9th November 2012 / 2:52 pm

            Thanks for the link, Bob. Glad to see I’m not the only one who has this sense. I shall read over my hard-earned cup of coffee (ahh kiddy nap time).

  16. 7th November 2012 / 12:22 pm

    I’m going to swim against the tide, and disagree with you.

    First though… who is actually whining? I haven’t heard anyone whining; no one over the income threshold complaining they’ll be worse off. I’ve seen a few requests from journalists for people to express those whining opinions in stories they’re writing (which tells me they are having to dig around to find people who are whining. I’ve seen a few pieces like this, where someone says “stop whining” and loads of people shout “yeah” in the comments section. Even though there wasn’t anyone actually whining in the first place.

    This is a complex and highly emotive subject. We all like fairness. But life isn’t fair. We all like to think people earning £60k, £70k, £100k whatever the figure might be, are doing really well. But life isn’t that simple either. People lead messy, complicated lives. Sometimes the distribution of income within a household is far from fair too.

    I want to live in a country where we have a series of universal benefit for children, the elderly, the sick, and so on. For me, it is a defining characteristic of where I live – we believe in safety nets.

    Is money being wasted on people who don’t need Child Benefit because they are comfortably well off? Yes.

    Is it their fault? No.

    Is the Government’s proposed way of tackling it the right approach? No.

    There are too many over-simplifications and way too much me-opia getting in the way of what ought to be a series and reasoned debate.

    Sally, your figures around income and mortgage are based on some wildly out-of-date assumptions. This isn’t the 1970s. One of the reasons we have a debt problem is that people borrowed well beyond their means – often taking out equity-release loans, or buying houses with self-certified mortgages.

    It doesn’t matter if that was foolish of them. It doesn’t matter if they don’t deserve anyone’s sympathy. Reality has no interest in opinions. There are people earning £60k who are getting their kids’ dinners from food banks, because they are crippled with debt… negative mortgage equity, failed business debt, the source of the debt is no longer relevant.

    That shouldn’t be happening. But it is.

    How about the issue of women usually being the ones that stay at home when the kids are young and what that means to them and their day-to-day disposable income? I’m sure we all know (or know someone who knows) a family where the high-earning father isn’t as emotionally stable and supportive as he might be, and prefers spending his money on gambling, or booze, or strippers, and his wife – who has responsibility for looking after the kids and the household – has no access to money apart from asking her husband for some.

    Child Benefit was always intended to ensure that no matter what, there would be money coming into a household for the benefit of the child/children there.

    It’s utter nonsense to say the country doesn’t have the money. The government has renewed its commitment to Trident – billions and billions will be spent on nuclear missiles that serve no purpose and create waste that will require even more billions to be spent on them in the future.

    The debate ought to be about what constitutes a civilised society.

    • 7th November 2012 / 12:46 pm

      Yeah, kinda, sorta. I am a BIG believer in safety nets. HUGE. But I have read newspaper articles and forum posts and overheard conversations in the ridiculously affluent town where I live where parents ARE whining about how they’ll manage without this money that, frankly, they don’t need – while people who are in genuine need are still going without what should be the basic things in life in a civilised country.

      I’ve lived in the South East for many years, and owned homes there, and I know very well that £50k doesn’t go as far there as you might expect, but there should be safety nets for families that are struggling regardless of income level, rather than a universal benefit that takes no account of whether someone is struggling or just squirrelling the cash away in a child trust fund, no?

      • Beadzoid
        8th November 2012 / 2:45 pm

        But as Sean (above) says, the money is not going to be redistributed Robin Hood style from those affluent who do whine to those struggling folk without even the basics. It’s going into a black hole of debt that the majority of people did not create, or even more likely – the admin bill that re-organisation of the system is going to create. I mean, where is the outcry against Apple and Starbucks for tax avoidance? And has everyone forgotten that ludicrous bonuses are still being paid out to chief execs. People get more behind campaigns to remove benefits or impose cuts on those who are in a slightly different income bracket to their own than against the large corporations that caused much of the mess and I’m happy to come across a complete leftie socialist when I say that I find this hard to comprehend.

        Irritating though I find them, I just don’t share your anger at the ‘whining affluent’. It makes no difference to me if they do squirrel away the child tax benefit for their offspring’s education and it doesn’t make the whole policy wrong. After all the landed gentry have been amassing and holding onto wealth for centuries. Perhaps they are too far off our radar for us to look at and say, hang on a minute, you could make a genuine financial contribution here to the debt that apparently must be paid off (hello mansion tax).

        If there really was no alternative then I’m sure everyone on this page who disagrees with the cuts would concede, but there are alternatives. And as Alex said somewhere further up in the comments, they should look at miserly savings such as this one a lot further down the list of priorities.

        Again, just a humble opinion – but doesn’t it stoke up the fires! 😀 😀 😀

  17. 7th November 2012 / 1:11 pm

    I disagree. My husband earns just the right amount for us to lose the benefit. We have two children below school age and I do not work. Over £2,400 per month goes on our rent (no we don’t live in a mansion), utility bills and council tax. That does not leave a lot and believe me that extra £130 a month has meant a lot to us at times.

    We are not ‘rich’ by any stretch of the imagination. I could go to work but the childcare costs in the South of England are ridiculous. When I looked into it, the cost would be around £1,400 per month full time for the two children – crazy money. Clearly when the two girls are at school full time I will work again (I hope!)

    What annoys me more is the fact that two people earning slightly below the amount each (almost £100,000 pa) can keep it. How the hell can that be fair?

    It makes me sick to hear the Government go on and on about saving money when we are still doling it out in bucketfuls to Europe and every other nation that demands it (India anyone?). This is nothing to do with economising or giving extra to those that need it most. It is about screwing the hard working people who are trying to get by.

    Why shouldn’t we be entitled to a universal benefit? Will the Government now be charging us for schools and hospitals too? It’s the narrow end of a bad idea with far reaching consequences.
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    • 7th November 2012 / 1:33 pm

      The Department of International Development gives over £300m a year to India. India has it’s own space programme which is funded to the tune of over £300m a year. Effectively we pay to sort out sanitation issues in rural India so they can put the money into a space programme.

      But I digress 🙂
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    • 7th November 2012 / 1:34 pm

      But you earn a good household income, you can afford not to work… do you NEED state benefit or want it, would be my question. And for me, if you don’t need it, you’re not entitled to it – quite aside from questions about the fairness of implementation, or the government’s spending priorities.

  18. 7th November 2012 / 1:39 pm

    Looking at it another way, the government should be doing everything it can to up the birth rate because in 30 years we will need as many young people as possible to be bear the burden of a population that is elderly and has insufficient pension provision.

    Penalise me for having children? The government should be rewarding me. According to The Institute for Fiscal Studies and University College London, increasing life expectancies, coupled with a massive underprovision in pensions for women specifically, are creating a massive financial timebomb in this country. Currently there are only 5 people working for every retired person, this is estimated to go down to 2 by 2050 and civilisation will no doubt collapse under the pressure of supporting the elderly.
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    • 7th November 2012 / 4:51 pm

      Well, on the bright side, if civilisation collapses, houses prices will tumble.

  19. 7th November 2012 / 1:45 pm

    List of things the government should sort out before mucking about with child benefit:

    *corporate tax evasion that sees billions syphoned to tax havens;
    * broken government systems that see billions written off from working family tax credits;
    * IR35 issues with service companies;
    * Personal tax evasion using offshore companies, life benefit trusts, etc

    Maybe once they’ve made headway on those, they can start looking at means testing winter fuel payments to the elderly and child benefit to those who are “well off”
    Alex recently posted..St Albans new cycle path and the Militant CyclistMy Profile

    • 7th November 2012 / 4:53 pm

      But pointing out X is really wrong doesn’t logically mean that Y isn’t still wrong. I still maintain someone earning more than enough to make ends meet shouldn’t feel entitled to state benefits. Tis just my perspective on it.

      • 7th November 2012 / 5:15 pm

        It’s a matter of priority though. Cycling on the pavement is illegal but we chose to go after “proper” criminals in preference to this.

        We can save a relative pittance by mucking about with child benefit but real substantial savings could be made if higher priority things were tackled first. Lets do those and then revisit child benefit with a saner, more logically thought out way of tackling it, rather than the mess that’s in situ. After all, it’s the methodology I’ve whined about from day one 🙂
        Alex recently posted..St Albans new cycle path and the Militant CyclistMy Profile

  20. 7th November 2012 / 1:47 pm

    I am completely with you on this. It’s not poverty, it’s a lifestyle squeeze. OK, so we have very little mortgage, and keep our outgoings as low as possible, but we don’t even earn half the limit for the single income. We would lose a significant part of our income if we lost CB and those on that sort of money wouldn’t. That’s as plain as can be. We have kids in our school who come in hungry, and it’s often due to lack of money for food. In a civilised society, that cannot be right. (And no, it’s not cos their parents are boozing, smoking and have flashy iphones either).
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    • 7th November 2012 / 4:53 pm

      Yes, there are people who NEED the money so much more!

  21. 7th November 2012 / 3:14 pm

    It’s an interesting one for me. A couple of years ago I was *outraged* at the possibility that we’d be denied our child benefit. I wasn’t working, the ex earned an extremely generous salary, but despite that our mortgage and outgoings meant that we really did need that £240 a month. But fast forward two years and I’m divorced, self-employed and juggling children and rent and bills with no money behind me. All the material stuff I thought we needed has fallen by the wayside, and I’ve had times this last year where I’ve had to borrow money from family to feed my children. And I look at people who’re earning a huge salary and think no, you don’t actually NEED that money. You might have got used to it, but you don’t need it. Not when there are people out there who’re struggling to feed their children. I’m still unhappy with the two parents earning x = they are entitled to CB, one parent works and earns the same amount as the two parents = they’re not entitled thing, though.

    Bit rambling, but it’s been a long day.
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      • 7th November 2012 / 3:44 pm

        *speechless*

        • 7th November 2012 / 5:17 pm

          By that I mean what do people “need”? A roof over their head, a meal in their guts and some clothes so they’re not naked? If you define need in such basic terms, we all have a surfeit surely?
          Alex recently posted..St Albans new cycle path and the Militant CyclistMy Profile

          • Beadzoid
            8th November 2012 / 2:56 pm

            Oh this reminds me of so many lively Economics A-Level classes I’ve run (the dismal science and lively? I know…!)

            Incidentally, many of my classes across the years have proposed the complete scrapping of the Welfare State and if that is representative of young people across the country then we are all DOOMED! 😀

  22. 7th November 2012 / 4:31 pm

    I think there are separate arguements here – there is an issue that those who need the most help in society aren’t getting it and that our wider benefits system needs to address that AND we need a proper plan to do so not just a few poorly thought through ideas where the implementation will use up a lot of the cash identified

    The unfair element of a family with one earner at £50k losing the benefit but a two income family on nearly £100k keeping it just feels a bit badly thought through – that it is overly penalising some families especially when childcare costs can mean minimal marginal income for the second earner

    There is also the fact that whilst £50,000 is a large salary if taken against the average across the country, in the South East earnings and cost of living are materially higher – the average house price in Greater London is £450k implying a mortgage of nearly £1500 plus commuting costs are punitive – I pay over £300 a month for my rail ticket, yes if you are earning that amount you are relatively lucky across the whole country but relative to your local area it may not go as far. It does also assume that the all of that income is allocated against that family (no debts, no alimony, no secret gambling habits…)

    Off to do more digging on disposable incomes and to have a look at how fuel tax raises money / penalises people vs. child benefit
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    • 7th November 2012 / 4:48 pm

      I agree with most of this, but the average house price in London figures are misleading since in Greater London there is a higher proportion of properties worth £10m+ than anywhere else. There are plenty of places in London where the average is significantly lower. An average 3-bed house in Forest Hill for example is only £280k.

      I used to live in the South East with a monthly mortgage payment of £1,500 (my current mortgage isn’t that much less) and we had a nanny and a cleaner and a new car, and I struggle to see how someone in our position then could have argued we needed that £20 a week.

      Regardless, surely there’s an argument that if you’re earning £50k and you need government support for housing costs then either a) you’re living in a house you can’t afford and you should downsize or b) your argument is really not for a universal benefit but for a housing benefit based on average property costs?

        • 7th November 2012 / 6:21 pm

          In St Albans, the average house price (according to the BBC) in June 2012 was £178,000. Assuming you save a 10% deposit (which I’ve done for all the properties I’ve ever bought) then your mortgage loan would be around £160k – just a smidge over 3x a £50k salary.

          • 7th November 2012 / 9:20 pm

            Hmmm. Per Rightmove, which uses property prices drawn from the Land Registery:

            “St. Albans, has an overall average price of £378,944 in 2011 based on sales.

            Last year most property sales in St. Albans involved terraced properties which sold for on average £340,802. Flats sold for an average price of £220,058, while semi-detached properties fetched £445,822.”

            That certainly ties up more with the prices I see in the paper and estate agents on a weekly basis. At the moment, a one bed flat in one of the poorest wards in Hertfordshire, Sopwell, is on the market for £149,000.

            Yes, we chose to live here, so I suppose we’ve only got ourselves to blame. I could find a job somewhere else what’s cheaper to live.
            Alex recently posted..St Albans new cycle path and the Militant CyclistMy Profile

          • 7th November 2012 / 9:39 pm

            The BBC which also uses Land Registry data from January to June 2012 paints a rather different picture, I have to say. But I’m not going to question your choice to live in the town you choose or how you choose to spend the money you earn – that’s your choice, but I don’t think the state has an obligation to fund those choices. I’m a HUGE believer in the welfare state, but it needs to be based on need, in my opinion. If that makes me a communist, so be it 😉

          • 8th November 2012 / 10:10 am

            looking at the BBC data, they’ve stuffed it up somewhere. They’re showing a 57% drop in house prices in St Albans. St Albans was named the most recession proof town in the country. Even I’d have noticed a 57% drop in house prices 🙂
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          • 8th November 2012 / 2:17 pm

            That £178k figure is definitely wrong. I”m sat here with the local paper property pages in front of me and can’t see anything at that level at all.
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  23. 7th November 2012 / 4:51 pm

    It really is a tricky debate, and I’m really interested in all the comments, even those I might not agree with 🙂

    I think under-payment of tax and cuts that affect the disabled and all of those issues are hugely important but I still can’t help but feel losing a £20 a week state benefit if you’re earning more than £50k is not particularly where our ire should be directed – not when there are so many other, justified targets for it.

  24. 7th November 2012 / 4:52 pm

    I agree that I don’t *need* it which is why I’ve not been vocal about it but I do think it is unfair the way that it is being cut from single earning households rather than looking at a system that looks at family income which would be considerably fairer.

    The reasons I’ve seen for it being based on whether there is a higher rate tax payer rather than a combined income is that there is no combined tax system in the UK (so my husband can’t ‘allocate’ some of his income to my tax allowance) but there are already systems e.g. the tax credit system that are based on family incomes so it is crazy that Child Benefit cannot be looked at in the same way.

    I don’t know the facts of whether this is actually the case but I have heard that a non-working parent in a new relationship (so not the other parent of the child) with someone who is a higher rate tax payer will no-longer receive CB (even if their finances are totally separate and the working adult in the household does not provide any contribution towards the children) but if the non-resident ex-partner is not a higher rate tax payer they will then be able to claim it as no CB would have been claimed for those children!

    Another argument I have heard is that one of the reasons that CB has always been non-means tested is that this makes it cheaper to administrate – how many civil servants are going to be employed to administrate the scheme? how much is going to be spent in postage and printing writing to everyone to work out who needs to claim it and who doesn’t? how much is it going to cost to reclaim overpayments etc? Is this actually going to save the government much in the long run?

    Life isn’t fair but the government should be looking to be as equal as possible when it comes to working out its policies rather than just picking an ‘easy’ option – if it had been cut based on a family income then there would be a lot less of the population able to whinge about it!
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  25. Tiger in Space
    7th November 2012 / 5:31 pm

    I *so* agree. I got properly cross about this the other day. I think household income would be a fairer measure but as my OH pointed out – for many middle-class people this means a cheaper holiday in future, hence the fuss. God forbid!

    • 7th November 2012 / 9:58 pm

      We’ve got someone at work who was contemplating asking for a pay cut when the initial proposal for a cut off at the 40% threshold was mooted. By taking a £2,000 pay cut, taking him down to just below the 40% bracket, he would have lost £1,200 in take home pay but kept £2,418 in child benefit for his 3 kids.

      Like us, his wife struggles to financially contribute due to the cost of child care so they effectively live on one salary. The tories would have us believe that we’re “rich” though 🙂
      Alex recently posted..St Albans new cycle path and the Militant CyclistMy Profile

      • 7th November 2012 / 10:01 pm

        Your point?

        • 8th November 2012 / 10:08 am

          My point was a comment on the fairness of the assessment. If someone the government brand “rich” can be demonstrably better off by taking a pay cut, something is wrong.
          Alex recently posted..Natwest’s #PigsByKids competitionMy Profile

          • 8th November 2012 / 11:16 am

            I shall respectfully disagree and leave it at that, on the basis that I think if you comment on this post any more, people will think you’re my secret stalker…

  26. Mummypinkwellies
    7th November 2012 / 6:14 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with you Sally.

    I consider my family lucky that the Child Benefit IS going to be removed from us. That means, to me, that we don’t need it. And it is true, we don’t!

    Our income is good. OH works full time on a good salary and we also earn a very good amount from our own business ventures, and hence I don’t need to work full time – just for the businesses. Our debt is also high though and as such we do have to watch the pennies. It pains me that I look at our income and think “wow”, but then I look at our outgoings and think “shit!” But, the mass of debt was the price we paid to get the business to where it is now and will soon be paid off.

    However, aside from the debt we also have a pretty good quality of life. I do the food shop at Waitrose and M&S when the mood takes me, we eat out a number of times a month at nice restaurants and have take aways, Lexie attends numerous groups and activities, we have all the technology we need and want, new clothes when we need them etc. etc. Yes we will miss the CB but it’ll just mean a couple less take aways or meals out.

    The point is that I believe that most households who earn this kind of money, while they might miss £80 a month, should be able to make a cut back to account for it. There are families out there who live in poverty IN THIS COUNTRY and can’t afford to eat, let alone anything else. They need it way more than I do!

    • 7th November 2012 / 6:22 pm

      Very well said.

  27. 7th November 2012 / 7:00 pm

    I understand why people are complaining about child benefit. The reforms to CB have been totalled mishandled by this government. To bring in a reform that privileges dual income families over one income families is unfair. To see two income families with an income of £100,000 keeping CB is what is at the heart of the argument. It also penalises those families where one parent stays at home – what sort of message does that send about stay at home parents? And what about the stay at home mum who may be married to a wealthy man but who doesn’t get penny from him? What about her and her children? That was the positive thing about universal child benefit, it recognised all children and their primary carers.

    However, I do think that if the government had introduced a fairer policy then this debate would not necessarily be happening. People would have more rapidly accepted these reforms even if they supported the principle of universal child benefit. You know the “we’re all in it together” attitude comes to mind here. Unfortunately these reforms have split people; the extent of disagreement to the point of hatred (not here but in some newspapers) is upsetting in my opinion. It is also what the government conveniently wants. Divide and rule to distract us from other pressing problems such as the way the NHS is going and the treatment of our elderly and disabled people. As I have seen within my own family, it is shocking how some of these people are being treated.
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    • 8th November 2012 / 11:27 am

      I can see why people are riled about the way it’s being implemented – what I can’t see is why people are riled about losing a benefit I simply don’t think they can justify needing.

  28. 7th November 2012 / 7:54 pm

    Brilliant Post!

    I can’t even imagine earning £50000! Me and my husband earn less than £20k between us! Child benefit (£47 a week for 3 children) is the ONLY benefit we qualify for. We don’t even get working tax credits because they reckon we earn too much! Really?! Our rent alone is £12k. I’d love to see one of those £50k whinging people live off our wage!
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    • Ruth Taylor
      7th November 2012 / 9:07 pm

      Go along to your local Citizens Advice Bureau and aske them to do a benefit check for your family.

      • 13th November 2012 / 6:41 pm

        Oh I have and I’ve done the online benefits calculator and spoken to the local housing team too – we don’t qualify for anything! Not a penny! However if I divorced my husband, I’d qualify for everything!!! LOL.
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  29. 7th November 2012 / 8:16 pm

    I so agree wish they would sort out it properly thought its odd that two parents can earn what is is 49,999 or what ever it is and still get it !

    • 8th November 2012 / 11:27 am

      Yes! I do think that’s daft.

  30. Chelle McCann
    7th November 2012 / 8:25 pm

    I agree, no whining here.
    We do come way under the 1 person salary line though with 2 incomes.
    However I will say that if we had to we would do without it. I rely on the £80 to go towards childcare but without it well I would sacrifice an evening to work and have cuddles with Fizz on the sofa. I do have to say that I hate wingey people though in any circumstance, much more a get on with it kinda girl (well I hope so).

    • 8th November 2012 / 11:28 am

      Quite agree. If we have to do without it, we will. And if people earning £50k+ are honest, I am convinced they could find a way to reduce their weekly spending by £20 or £40 or whatever.

  31. HPMcQ
    7th November 2012 / 8:28 pm

    I think the main thing is change needs to happen so that the families/children that need it the most get it, without fail. But before any cuts are made, the right structure needs to be addressed because as it stands it is a bit of a joke. Then anyone who might have been having a moan about it all might just then stop.

    • 8th November 2012 / 11:29 am

      You think? Stop moaning? Wouldn’t the Internet collapse in on itself if that happened 😉

  32. 7th November 2012 / 8:33 pm

    I have been completely sidetracked by this post, the comments make for really interesting reading. I completely agree that if people cannot afford their mortgage without this small amount then they have really spent past their means.

    I also live in Herts in a very expensive area but I live side by side with people who cannot afford to live comfortably. I picked up a friend last night to bring her home to feed her, do her washing and take her to bible study. I found her sitting in darkness when I arrived as she had no money to buy electricity (yes of course I topped her key up). How can we argue about the need for this money when people are earning £50K and others are getting food from the local food bank and cannot heat their house?

    Mich x
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    • 8th November 2012 / 11:29 am

      Thanks Mich – I’ve lived in expensive parts of the UK and yes, housing can be expensive if you want a nice house in a nice neighbourhood. But there are plenty of people in those areas making ends meet on far less, and really struggling, as you point out. Quite agree with you.

  33. 7th November 2012 / 8:46 pm

    Absolutely right, Sally.

    I do roll my eyes especially much when I see people using the internet to complain about how they ‘can’t live without’ this benefit (you know, using their computers and electricity and broadband and free time… ) They literally don’t know how rich they are. I honestly think that many people have lost sight of what is a basic ‘need’ and what is a privilege.
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    • 8th November 2012 / 6:32 pm

      *applauds*

  34. 7th November 2012 / 8:54 pm

    totally agree with you Sally – and Michelle above. We too live in an affluent area (though are not affluent ourselves) but of course better off than some – I am typing on my laptop for a start. I am sick of listening to school gate mums complaining that they will lose CB, while driving around in their four wheel drives and dressing their kids in Mini Boden. If I was lucky enough to live in a household earning above the threshold, I certainly wouldn’t be complaining about losing £20 or £60 a week. The only unfair thing about it, is perhaps the government should be using the money they save to top up the CB of families who are really in need.
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  35. 7th November 2012 / 9:14 pm

    I completely agree. I am a single parent too and my son has only ever been to visit his grandparents in the UK (we are British but live in Berlin) which my family thankfully helps me pay for, other then that, we’ve never been on a family holiday. The fact is that whilst I would love to take him somewhere, it’s not ruining our lives that we can’t afford to do such a thing and families with 50K or double that should really cut out moaning about losing 20 pounds a week. Like you say, I’m sure they use it in some way, most people live tight to their means limits or above, but if this is the only adjustment they’ll have to make in the current climate then that ain’t half bad!
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  36. 7th November 2012 / 9:18 pm

    My new aim in life is to earn enough so I DON’T QUALIFY!
    I would be bloody proud of the fact I was able to provide for my children without it.
    I hope that the money the Gov save will be put into reducing childcare costs, to encourage parents back into work – It would set us back over £15k a year if I went back to work full time now! (I have 2 under 2)!
    Free nursery places for WORKING parents from when their babies are 12 months old would be an amazing start to getting people back into work, and striving to get off child benefit! I’d happily trade my child benefit for free nursery places so I could work!

  37. 7th November 2012 / 10:11 pm

    It’s hugely difficult fullstop with benefits.

    Take pensions: basically people currently working fund the state pensions of the retired. Due to the double whammy of pay inequality and longer life expectancy, women draw more in terms of state pension than men whilst paying less National Insurance in their life time.

    You can see where that one could go, and it’s the thin end of the wedge when the gov over-simplify the criteria for “rich” to include people with exceedingly limited disposable income. Let this go without making a fuss, and wonder where it will hit next.
    Alex recently posted..St Albans new cycle path and the Militant CyclistMy Profile

    • 7th November 2012 / 10:21 pm

      I’m really not sure I follow your logic. And besides which we’re arguing essentially at cross purposes. Fun as that is, my irritation is with people earning a lot of money complaining about how they’ll manage without a state benefit they don’t particularly need. At a time when millions of families in this country don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or whether they can afford to turn the heating on this winter. It’s ludicrous to me, personally. I’m not acting as the government spokesperson in favour of means-testing or benefit cuts, or arguing about property prices. I’m just irritated by affluent people who don’t know when to count their blessings.

  38. 7th November 2012 / 10:24 pm

    Reading the comments overall, there seems to be some misconception that savings in child benefit from the governments proclaimed “rich” will be used to support the poorest.

    The savings won’t, they’ll disappear into a black hole never to be seen again.

    The whole concept of “spending cuts” is a PR myth- the rate of increase in government spending may occasionally slow down a little but it hasn’t fallen since austerity started. In the year to September 2012, government spending increased by 3.7% and the deficit actually increased by almost £5bn. (http://ow.ly/f6Mnr ).

    The way to sort this situation out and ensure the government has money to fund the welfare state isn’t tinkering with benefits, it’s to tackle the wholesale multi billion tax evasion by large multinationals. It’s unfortunate that the government doesn’t have the balls to do it though.
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  39. Seasiderclare
    7th November 2012 / 11:32 pm

    We don’t earn enough to have ours stopped, even though we both work full time, but we don’t need it at all. We struggle financially because we are crap with money, end of. If we get in a real muddle we can cut back, on so many things. I think many people are in the same boat, they just don’t admit to their poor spending habits.
    It is too easy to live beyond your means and then blame government cuts.

    • 8th November 2012 / 6:32 pm

      Absolutely.

  40. Heather
    8th November 2012 / 11:04 am

    Well I am going to be even more contentious and say that I don’t think people should have children if they can’t afford them and that I have never agreed with child benefit. We delayed having our children until our mid to late 30’s to ensure that we had established a suitable life style and career path to support our choice of having children (and let’s not forget it IS a choice!).
    I have claimed child benefit but because of my beliefs have always contributed that money to charity where it is able to do more good. I do support the government’s stance although as things stand currently (ie people who have always received and expect it) I believe it should be assessed on total household income and should be phased out at about £60k. As for the charities, we will continue to support them despite the benefit withdrawal as we believe that it is the duty of those who are privileged in society to help those in greater need.

    • 8th November 2012 / 11:27 am

      Oooh. Do you know, I was only talking to my Mum about this yesterday. I know lots of people who consider lifestyle/children and make choices accordingly – they might limit the size of their family, or they might adjust their lifestyle. I know when I became a single parent, I wanted a certain lifestyle and so I moved to where I could afford that lifestyle on one (albeit good) income.

  41. Bob
    8th November 2012 / 12:22 pm

    Having thought long and hard about this, and being against the cuts (in principle), here are some thoughts and questions…

    Playing devils advocate on this one….Why pay Child Benefit to anyone at all? I ask that because many supporters of the cuts describe having children as a choice and that people shouldn’t have children if they can’t afford them. We have income support and tax credits, so simply up them if families are struggling? If we take that “children as a choice” argument further, why should childbirth be free on the NHS?

    In all seriousness, I could probably support the cuts more if they did apply to everyone.
    The argument that rich people don’t “need” the benefit is interesting. Since we’re defining who deserves child benefit and who doesn’t, I propose that it’s taken off families with Sky TV packages. Who really does “deserve” the benefit and do these cuts do anything about that? Not really.

    Leaving devils advocate aside for a moment, my main issues are regarding the spin and the obvious ‘divide & rule’ politicking going on. For example, let’s look at the oft quoted top 15% of families [2]. This obviously makes “rich” people look like whiners and justifies “poor” people in calling them whiners. However, the 15% of families line, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies[3] is simply not true. After tax, a single earner with an adjusted net income of £60,000 (approx £3,464.89 per month) and with a hypothetical monthly council tax of £100 would fit into the income distribution as follows:

    a) With no partner or children, is in the 95th percentile.

    b) With partner, but no children, is in the 86th percentile.

    c) With 1 child (0-13) and an unemployed partner, is in the 77th percentile. For comparison, a household with two adults on £49,000 would place in the 95th percentile yet still receive child benefit (See point 1 above).

    d) With 2 children (0-13) and an unemployed partner, is in the 68th percentile.

    e) With 3 children (0-13) and an unemployed partner, is in the 58th percentile.

    Clearly the oft quoted 15% figure is misleading in the context of households. Earners maybe, households no.

    So we have a government telling us something is “fair” when it obviously isn’t, while spouting figures which are also incorrect in the context which they usually use them. All this will serve is the push a wedge between poor people and slightly less poor people. It’s divisive and toxic and it’s working.

    Further, little has been stated about the impact to state pensions with regards to National Insurance contributions should a mother opt out of child benefit, yet this could have serious consequences at retirement. This is even less clear for new mums btw.

    This week we also heard about plans to introduce child care allowances[4] for mothers who wish to work, while not providing care allowances for ‘stay and home’ mothers with a partner earning in excess of £50,000 seems to suggest that as a society, we value mothers in the workplace more than we do mothers raising their own children.

    The argument that means testing is too costly appears shaky when considering the numbers who will move to self-assessment or offset the loss in child benefit with additional contributions to pensions. I will therefore be surprised if these cuts raise the £2bn headline figure and question the value in pushing ahead with these cuts while not tackling tax evasion and extreme versions of tax avoidance.

    Finally, the examples of moaning “high earners” sells newspapers and plays nicely into the ‘divide and rule’ argument. Meanwhile, btw, the NHS appears to be dissolving in front our our eyes.

    I’m a big supporter of welfare and as a “high earner”, don’t mind paying higher taxes. In fact if it means we have better schools and healthcare, I’ll happily accept an overall income tax rise (as long as it applies universally). However, this implementation takes the piss. For that reason, I will be offsetting the loss in additional pension contribution and perhaps a nice new bicycle from the Cycle To Work Scheme. So, I’m not whining, but I’m actively playing against their stupid implementation. I recommend that others do the same if they are able.

    • 8th November 2012 / 6:30 pm

      There’s a massive amount of conflation going on in your comment – by being irritated that high earners don’t seem to appreciate their good fortune, I’m somehow involved in the collapse of the NHS, discrimination against stay-at-home Mums and tax evasion?

      I’m not praising the implementation or the unfair way in which this particular cut is being applied – but I’m still saving sympathy for the 3.5m children living in poverty in the UK today. Try telling those children and their families that someone earning £50,000 deserves sympathy more than they do. Because I’m sorry, I don’t buy it.

      • Bob
        8th November 2012 / 7:22 pm

        Hi,

        Granted there’s some conflation. My point was that people can appreciate their good fortune and still be outraged (or at least frustrated). I’ve documented the reasons people are entitled to be outraged.
        1. Poor implementation
        2. Uncertainty around NI contributions
        3. Apparent kick in the teeth for Stay and Home Mums

        Whether someone deserves sympathy is not really the issue here. The issue is who should receive (not deserve) Child Benefit and indeed other Universal Benefits? I don’t see that this question has really been answered. Instead we have a poorly implemented, arbitrary cut off point that will cause major upheaval for some families. Sure, people won’t have sympathy for the “better off”, but that in itself is plain ugly. What is happening to society when we can shrug and say “tough luck”. Any family is only a redundancy and/or illness away from the poverty you speak of. It seems therefore that Child Benefit should be available for everyone or completely revamped. By revamped I mean stopped for everyone and replaced with benefits that pull people out of poverty and nothing more (and if people have sky, they’re not in poverty).

        I’m also sure that the majority of people impacted aren’t seeking sympathy (although the Daily Mail might do a good job of making us think otherwise). I’m sure the majority of people are just deeply angry that ministers are calling something blatantly unfair, “fair” which doesn’t appear to solve any particular problem (except perhaps reducing the deficit a tiny bit). If politicians are lying about this, what else are they lying about?

        I really do share the concerns regarding poverty and would dearly like to see more money applied there, but I don’t see that happening through these cuts. These cuts take away from people with slightly more than those in poverty (relatively speaking), but given the implementation and the advice kicking around to offset losses, I simply don’t see this raising a great deal of money. However, what these discussions are doing is turning neighbour against neighbour. Why should so and so get X? They don’t need Y… etc

        So if it isn’t going to raise a great deal of money (that remains to be seen) what is this good for? One (albeit conspiracy) theory is that this argument is distracting people from even bigger issues, hence the NHS comment. Sure, maybe that’s not the intention, but none of us will really know. I just find it curious that this issue, which affects 500,000 people is getting so much attention, while the NHS issue is getting next to none. I digress…

        Either way, I may not have too much sympathy if someone has to save a little bit longer for their next TV, but I sure as hell have sympathy for anyone (however rich or poor they are) who have to take their children out of school and move somewhere completely different just because of a poorly implemented policy, implemented (as far as I can tell) for divide and rule politicking. Just because someone is “rich” doesn’t mean they less deserving of respect and dignity.

        More conflation I know, but I’m just so saddened that this is what’s happening to society. A sort of “if you earn £50k, well sod you”. It’s blatant schadenfreude, and it’s deeply upsetting.

        I have one wish here, and it’s that we’re more respectful of one another. Just because someone is bringing in £50k doesn’t mean they’re not going through some personal hell themselves. Don’t tell me that their hell is better or worse than someone poorer, because it’s different for everyone. This is going to cause problems for people, we should respect that as a fact. For some it’s an minor loss, less to put in savings (unlikely they will be complaining or deserve sympathy as pointed out here), but for others it’s the difference between breaking even and not. The salt in the wound is that their neighbour may be bringing home £100k and still getting the “benefit”.

        Anyway, long ramble, but they very call to stop whining is a sad reflection on what our society has become. I didn’t stop whining about tuition fees, although I’m not a student, I didn’t stop whining when disability allowance was messed with and I sure as heck won’t stop whining about a poorly implemented and divisive policy.

        Make the policy implementation fair. It’s not an outrageous ask.

        • 8th November 2012 / 8:14 pm

          Ah, yes, fair point.

          • Bob
            8th November 2012 / 8:23 pm

            BTW. great post and some great discussion here.

  42. 8th November 2012 / 1:36 pm

    And of course not all single parent families are the same. A father who does not live in the child’s household still has to contribute to the child’s expenses. A child with no father has to rely solely on what the mother can earn. Just saying, as even when you simplify it it’s not simple.
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  43. 8th November 2012 / 2:37 pm

    A good post Sally that raises some interesting questions and the comments that have been left here are fascinating.
    We will lose CB next year. At present my husband has a reasonably well paid job in London and I don’t work to stay at home and look after our children (one 2 1/2 yo and a 6 week old). Unless we rely on family for childcare there is no point in me working as I can’t find a local job that pays well enough to cover the cost of childcare, or I would have to pay £300 a month to commute to somewhere that does pay enough, but then it won’t actually pay enough to cover childcare and the travel costs. It would be wrong to say that I won’t miss CB, but I know that I’m lucky enough that we shouldn’t go without food as a result. Some cuts will have to be made though, but I realise that we’re much better off than many. I do believe that there is a big unfairness in the way that CB cuts are being worked out, especially by only looking at a person’s income, not a family unit’s income.

    I do have to point out that whilst £50k sounds like a lot of money it is all relative to where in the country you are. Childcare costs, housing costs, council tax and believe it or not some supermarket prices are cheaper in some parts of the country than others. For the majority of people here in the SE house-prices are not in sync with most people’s earnings and the mapping of one to the other again varies depending on where in the country you are. When everything does crash financially (as I sadly believe it will one day) I hope we will end up with things being more balanced across the UK and for the link between wages and house prices to be reset somewhat. As others have said people have ended up borrowing huge amounts (which banks were happy to give them) to support a way of life that they were led to think they could afford, but actually the reality is very different. People today are not taught how to budget and there is far too much focus on material possessions (in my opinion this all comes from the stupid worshiping of celebrities that the media encourages, but that’s a whole separate post!) meaning that people are greedy when it comes to money and some thinking that they are entitled to things.
    Waffle over…
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    • 8th November 2012 / 6:22 pm

      I lived in the South East, earned approximately £29,000 a year, kept a roof over my head, a car on the road, and didn’t claim benefits. So yes, it can be done. You cut your cloth according to what’s available. But ultimately, if life’s tough for you at a £50k income facing losing part of your child support, spare a thought for those suckers earning an average wage. It’s not easy for anyone, but £50k a year gives you a LOT more choices and options than are available to millions of families in the UK in 2012.

  44. Merry
    8th November 2012 / 4:40 pm

    It’s interesting. I’ve had this conversation a lot.

    We used to have an in come of around that, it actually came in at about £2800 a month I think. That’s including the child allowance which is a reasonable portion if you have 4 kids. Enough to miss. Tere was a not voluntary pension contribution that reduced his take home.

    Our mortgage is £750, so down to £2000, our council tax on a 4 bed end terrace is £200 a month. We run one car, diesel, for (at the time) 6 of us… In tax, diesel, insurance etc that was about £300 a month, so down to £1500 a month. Then our bills, telephone/bb, gas, water, electric, 2 low tariff mobiles, tv licence etc added up to fairly close to £500 a month in fact, say £400. So £1100 a month. Then feeding a family of 6. Now max and I maybe had a bottle of wine a week, there were nappies and kids who drank 8 pints of milk a day and do on and yes it was our choice to have a large family and no we didn’t live any sort of insanely frugal life, but our food/nappies/household cleaning materials etc bill was somewhere around £600 a month. £100 a month each, which is I think £.50 ish each a day running costs? Is that right?

    So that left, at best, £500 a month and actually it used to be less than that so I must have forgotten something… More like £350 a month to save for car mots, running repairs, decorating, saving for moving house, clothes for the children, any activities they might want to do and saving for holidays.

    We go camping, no holidays to the Bahamas for us – and I have the blog to prove it. But yes, not insanely frugal because actually, we worked hard so max got to that up earning level and having the kids we wanted, a half safe/decent car and a bottle of wine a week was not exactly kicking over the traces.

    We’d have missed the £200 a month child benefit. It would have meant no once a year holiday and no Brownies activity. And getting in debt every time the car needed new tyres.

    Interestingly, we earn less now, much less and the govt top us up to a level which is not £50k or anything close but not so massively less than we used to live on.

    • Merry
      8th November 2012 / 4:41 pm

      That should be £3.50 a day. Maths not that bad.

      • 8th November 2012 / 6:15 pm

        Indeed – owning your own home and running a business can be tricky. And if life’s tough for those people, on an income of £50,000 with the safety net of employment and owning your own home, let’s spare a thought for those living on £15,000 a year, with no savings, no property and no heating in their homes before bemoaning our lot, is all I’m saying.

        • Merry
          9th November 2012 / 12:32 am

          Oh yes. I agree. But once you are on £15,000 a year, you get quite a lot. At times recently Max and I have taken minimum wage out of our business in order to not have to make staff redundant. And guess what, the government gives us tax credits which in fact top us up to not a vast amount less than we used to earn. Which is kind… Huh… When it comes to the whole thing.

          There is a big difference between the outgoings of someone on £50k with one Child who loses their CB and someone with 5 who loses it. Someone with 1 might not miss £80 too much, but I’d sure as hell notice my £236.

          • 9th November 2012 / 12:38 am

            Um, interesting perspective, I guess. It’s a bit different to how I feel, let’s just agree to differ on this one!

  45. 8th November 2012 / 10:19 pm

    Good, discussion-provoking post. I’ve enjoyed reading it and all the comments.

    Personally I’ve not been aware of any high earners bemoaning the loss of child benefit, but then I do make a point of avoiding the Daily Mail at all costs. I have been aware of a lot of complaints about the nature of the cuts – as you say, it seems vastly unfair that a single parent earning £50k will lose out where a married couple each earning £49k will not.

    We will continue to receive child benefit when the changes come in, as my husband and I each earn below the threshold. However there are definitely people a lot worse off than us out there, and I really do think combined income should have been taken into account.
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