Earlier this year, the Independent highlighted that it costs on average £201,000 to raise a child in Britain today. Parenting has changed, with many taking more responsibility for their children in many cases, up to and beyond 21 years of age. Helping them to progress through education, in some cases University, giving them a foot up onto the housing ladder; it’s all very costly and now an inevitable part of modern day parenting.
Universal child benefit acknowledges and recognises that it is expensive to raise children in Britain today. Scrapping the Building Schools for the Future programme, halting Playbuilder schemes and freezing child benefits are just a few of the ways in which families have been bearing the brunt of the coalition cuts.
We now see Sarah Teather and her Tory pals going further and removing child benefit from some parents. Yes, it may be the case that those on higher incomes may be able to afford raising a child without need for help from benefits. But is it fair that this move now makes some parents with children worse off than wealthy people who do not have children?
The devil is in the detail of this Tory and Lib Dem policy. The benefit removal as proposed would leave households where a only one parent works and earns over £44,000 worse off and would leave parent households with combined incomes of up to £88,000 unaffected, so long as one of them is not earning over £44,000.
That’s the problem with the Government’s proposals as they stand at the moment. It’s always those who are on the fine line, who could do with that extra bit of help, who end up losing out. That is why I am in favour of keeping the universal based approach.
But, although many may agree with the principle of the Con Dem approach, the detail is ill thought out and would be unfair on middle income families. What would be a fairer approach to take is to have higher taxation on all higher income level earners, and not just penalise those who have children. Government should recognise the important role of parenting and acknowledge that bringing up children is expensive. The Lib Dem and Tory approach fails to acknowledge this.