The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women


3:52 pm - October 4th 2010

by Cath Elliott    


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George Osborne’s announcement today that from 2013 Child Benefit payments will be axed for any family with a parent earning enough to put them in the 40-50%  income tax bracket is neither “fair” nor “right” as some commentators would have us believe: it’s actually an attack on the basic principles of the welfare state, and it’s an attack on women.

Before I get into how and why that is this though I just want to make something clear.

By 2013 none of my 4 children will be eligible for Child Benefit, so I have absolutely no vested interest in this issue. This is not about me trying to preserve something for myself; the decision to cut Child Benefit will make no difference to me personally one way or another.

Right, so now I’ve got that out of the way, here’s the problem.

Child Benefit, or Family Allowance as it used to be called, is a universal benefit, and it’s universal for a reason. As Yvonne Roberts said in the Guardian last year:

“It’s precisely because child benefit is universal and not means-tested that it lays down a marker of mutuality in society that has a value that must not be sacrificed. It says that children matter and this cash, paid to the mother, is highly likely to be spent on their welfare.”

It’s a recognition if you like that children are valued, and that society as a whole has an obligation to support its children. It’s not, as some have said, a “reward” for having children, it’s society’s (small) contribution to its children’s welfare.

More importantly though as far as I’m concerned is the fact that Child Benefit is the one state benefit that has nearly always gone to the mother, or at least it has since 1945, when Eleanor Rathbone’s amendment to the Family Allowances Bill overturned the then Government’s proposal to have Family Allowance paid to the father:

“For moral and economic reasons this would, Rathbone believed, give mothers security and rights, as well as providing better chance of the money being used for the purpose it was intended: the welfare of children. This ‘child benefit’ payment was universal and paid into the purse. Rathbone knew that mothers could be vulnerable and less able to cope with changes in circumstance; she was also aware that payment direct to mothers made a statement about women’s equal status.”

It could of course be argued that Child Benefit as it currently stands is sexist, in that by giving mothers the payment it helps feed the notion that women are somehow more caring and nurturing than men, and in an ideal world I would be more than happy to argue that men are just as capable of fulfilling that role as women therefore both parents should get the benefit and so on and so forth.

However, we don’t live in an ideal world, we are not in some post-patriarchal post-feminist sodding nirvana. The reality is that women do still bear the brunt of caring responsibilities, that women are still the ones most likely to take on the role of primary carer, and that mothers are still the ones who tend to do the shopping and cooking for their kids.

And it’s also still the case that women are the main victims of domestic violence, and that domestic violence cuts across all classes and income brackets. Rich women get beaten by their husbands too, and so do women who are married to men who pay 40% of their wages back to the taxman.

Speak to anyone who works in a domestic violence shelter, and they will tell you that often-times Child Benefit is the only source of income a woman and her children escaping from a violent partner and father will have. Speak to anyone who works in the violence against women sector and they will tell you all about how some men use money as a way to exert power and control in a relationship; how many women are denied access to the family finances, and how Child Benefit is often the only money they ever get to see.

Child Benefit is a life-line for some women, and yet this government wants to take it away from them.

Others have already pointed out the discrepancy in Osborne’s proposals that will see a family with one person earning £44,000 a year losing their Child Benefit while a family with two people earning £43,000 each a year will get to keep theirs, but so far I’ve seen little about how, once again, this ConDem Government is proposing cuts that will have a disproportionate impact on women.

The Fawcett Society has called for a judicial review of this year’s budget, arguing that “the government should have assessed whether its budget proposals would increase or reduce inequality between women and men.” I firmly believe that that legal challenge should now be extended, and that the axing of Child Benefit for higher earners should be assessed according to the same criteria. Because an attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women, it really is as simple as that.

____

Crossposted from Too Much To Say For Myself

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About the author
Cath Elliott is a regular contributor. She is a feminist, a trade union activist, and a freelance writer and blogger. Also at: Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Equality ,Feminism ,Fight the cuts ,Sex equality

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Reader comments


Why should rich people get benefits?

Also £20 a week? Those rich women don’t need it, but plenty of poorer others do.

great piece cath.

well said. i am getting more and more convinced that this coalition seems to want to hurt women. from cutting funding for DV protection methods, funding for one25, funding to investigate police response to rape accusations, public sector cuts and their complete disregard for the equality impact assessment.

there are interesting stats and stories in half the sky that relate to this – in that when money or income is given to the mother, children benefit. now, like you, i don’t want to perpetuate the myth that women are always caring and nurturing, and men are not, because it is nonsense. but as you say, we don’t live in the post patriarchy (yet…!) and this benefit can be a lifeline to vulnerable women and is important because all children should be treated equally.

4. Alison Charlton

And it’s a further attack on women’s pension rights. If you care for children at home, and get child benefit, your National Insurance contributions are maintained – which protect your basic state pension. This is particularly acute for women, who often give up work to look after children and have gaps in their contributions.
See http://www.nextleft.org/2010/10/will-government-protect-womens-pension.html

@blanco

Is it fair that a family with two earners on £43K each – so a total household of £86K p/a – gets to keep their child benefit while a family with one earner on £44K loses theirs? There’s a case to be made for high earners to not recieve child benefit but this ain’t it. George very clearly hasn’t thought this through at all.

6. John Meredith

So we have to pay Samantha Cameron £20 a week in order to show that our society cares about children? Just imagine what a cold a brutal society it would be if she didn’t get the cash.

There is a lot of talk about the budget deficit, can we perhaps start talking about the democratic deficit?

In the spring Philip Hammond told the BBC that “the universality of child benefit will be preserved”.

Cutting it was not in any Tory or LibDem manisfesto, they can’t go on for ever doing 180 degree handbrake turns on policies because of the exigencies of the coalition.

And I suppose the LibDems are just going to keep quiet on this one too.

Cutting child benefit undermines the universality of the benefits system, it means the more affluent have no longer any investment in the system and it makes it easier for this sordid ConDem coalition to chop benefits for the poor.

This argument is so staggeringly weak I don’t even know where to start.

Child benefit is important as some kind of stealth escape allowance for abused women? You can’t possibly be serious.

9. Luis Enrique

A lot of stuff in the first few paras is about the symbolism of the matter, and doesn’t really speak to the pragmatics of the question of whether it makes sense to take money off tax payers and give it to wealthy families. We could use some numbers when it comes to the pragmatic points you make. How many women are there in high income bracket households whose partners are such shits that child benefit is the only money they get to see? That sounds like a terrible situation to be in, but if it only applies to a very small number of individuals, I’m not sure it’s a basis for designing the national benefits system. If there are thousands of such women, maybe the cost is worth bearing. The thing is, in most cases when you’re in a household pulling in over £45k, child benefit is not a “lifeline”.

otoh, if you’d like some pragmatic arguments against means testing child benefits, see Britain’s proposed child benefit taxback is inefficient

10. James from Durham

No, it is not really as simple as that.

Yes, CB is a lifeline to some women, but probably not the ones who are paying higher rate tax!

I think, Cath, that you are starting with your conclusion that tories and libdems are women-hating misogynists and assuming that this story feeds into that.

I remain to be convinced that paying benefits to higher rate taxpayers is actually a good use of money.

The left will have to accept some cuts. If we can’t accept one that is taking money away from richer families that , by and large, don’t need it, then god help us.

12. Shatterface

Sorry, Cath but whatever the arguments for universal benefits are, supporting child benefit on the basis it protects women from domestic abuse – i.e. that it serves a purpose it is not designed for on behalf of people it is not intended for – isn’t one of them.

It’s a flimsy post-hoc justification: you’d be better off arguing for the money to be paid directly to shelters where it would actually be targeted at those in need.

I’m not seeing any arguments why I should pay tax to support the children of people on a shared income of six times my wage.

James from Durham

“I think, Cath, that you are starting with your conclusion that tories and libdems are women-hating misogynists and assuming that this story feeds into that.”

Actually I was prepared to give the coalition the benefit of the doubt as regards them being a bunch of women-hating misogynists, after all, they’ve got Theresa May, and she’s said and done some good things in the past. However, nothing they’ve done since they came into power has justified my initial naivety/generosity. They truly are a bunch of women-hating misogynists. This latest wheeze from Gideon simply seals it imho.

@10 and @12

I refer you both to my question @5.

15. Luis Enrique

Mr S Pil

yes, why have they chosen “one parent” rather than “household income” as the means test?

The article doesn’t even point out the point about universality of benefits – that if some basic services are universal then only they’re supported by all.

The Libdems did sign up to this principle until the election…

From just a few weeks ago:

“Liberal Democrats today voted overwhelmingly to safeguard the “simple to understand, easy to claim” universal child benefit.

The party’s annual conference backed an amendment to a policy motion to ensure that child benefit would not be means-tested or taxed.”

http://www.24dash.com/news/communities/2010-09-21-lib-dems-vote-to-save-universal-child-benefit

As in, that’s an additional point to make to what is already a spot-on article…

this idea that people are “well off” just because they earn just above average is fatuous. The Coalition is going to lose a *lot* of support over this. Mumsnet is already on fire over it.

19. James from Durham

OK, Mr Pill, I can certainly agree that it may not be cleverly designed. I could point out that some women getting CB may not even know that their husbands are higher rate payers. How are they going to know when to stop claiming?

Also, and especially when couples are taxed seperately, the level of complexity to make this work may not justify the saving. Universal benefits are, of course, cheap to administer.

However, Cath isn’t saying “let’s design this benefit withdrawal for the rich a bit more cleverly” or “the money saving might be worthwhile if the added bureaucracy didn’t cost more”.

Sunny; “Mumsnet is already on fire over it”. It’s almost as if people are greedy and self-interested. I am shocked.

21. James from Durham

Sunny, if you are paying higher rate tax, you are not just a bit above the average. You are on £43875 or more. In many families both partners are working. Thus increasing the family income even further above the median.

@19

Well no, she’s making a different and in my opinion correct point that cuts to CB will hurt women disproportionatly. The thing with this policy is that it seems to have been drawn up on the back of a fag packet – if we can think of all these criticisms in the space of a few hours on a blog post then why on earth didn’t someone have a word with Mr Osborne? There are two possibilities: either they didn’t, in which case they are more stupid that I originally thought, or they did and Osborne (& chums) simply don’t give a shit. This isn’t a minor point – if the gov are so cavalier about benefits for the richer folk, then they’re gonna give even less of a monkey’s when it comes to us at the bottom of the heap.

23. Shatterface

‘this idea that people are “well off” just because they earn just above average is fatuous. The Coalition is going to lose a *lot* of support over this. Mumsnet is already on fire over it.’

Just for the record, you think single people on £44,000 and couples on £80,000 are on ‘just above average’ pay? Very New Labour.

Where do those of us on way below £20,000 stand in your world?

24. George W. Potter

This article is pretty fucking sexist.

Firstly, child benefit should be paid to the primary carer (which I understand is now the case), to imply that it should always go to the woman disgracefully overlooks the contributions of stay at home fathers to the care of their children.

Secondly, you are incorrect in saying that women are the majority of the victims of domestic violence. In fact, women are more likely to abuse, stalk and attack their partners than men are*.

This of course means that your final conclusion is based on shaky foundations to say the least and the entire article certainly seems to be strongly prejudiced against men. If someone on here had written an article with the opposite tone I’m pretty sure you would be up in arms about it.

As for child benefit payments being ended to the wealthy, yes, in an ideal world it would be universal, but under the current circumstances something has to be cut to enable the welfare reforms which will help hundreds of thousands escape the poverty trap. Quite frankly, the wealthy do not need it. I do think the way in which the cut off is defined could be better but the jaundiced, prejudiced argument that this article puts forth is highly erroneous.

*Sources:
http://www.physorg.com/news72113800.html
http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm

25. Matt Munro

“This cash paid to the mother is highly likely to be spent on their welfare”

Rather than on cheap alcohol or foreign holidays with toyboys? This is just the old sexist cliche that men are all irresponsible and only women can be trusted with children’s welfare. It’s 2010 not 1955.

Love the idea that the left are quite happy to tax the rich more yet are all up in arms when it comes to withdrawing some of their benefits…..

…which just reinforces my view that all socialists are really interested in is control of the people rather than the fundamental wellbeing of society and those in it.

George W. Potter

“Firstly, child benefit should be paid to the primary carer (which I understand is now the case), to imply that it should always go to the woman disgracefully overlooks the contributions of stay at home fathers to the care of their children.

Yes it should and it does go to the primary carer. However, the fact that the primary carer is still in the majority of cases the woman may well be sexist, but it’s most certainly not my fault.

Blame the patriarchy, not me.

28. Shatterface

If you are on £64 JSA another £20 makes a massive difference to your – and your children’s – life style.

If you are a rich fucker on £80 grand you’d just piss that £20 away on weird shit like dream-catchers or fruit.

Whatever votes Labour would lose by hitting the rich would be more than compensated by working class voters wanting to stick it to the them.

29. Matt Munro

@23 It’s a bit more subtle than that – single person on 44k plus loses out, couple only lose out if both over 44k. I agree that neither can be considered in need of benefits but 44k as a sole income with children isn’t a fortune, especially in parts of the south.

Mumsnet are a bunch of up their own arse middle class yummy mummies who proabbly spend the money on spa breaks and nannies – who cares what they think

@25 cath clearly says that she does not believe that men should not and can not care for their children. which undermines your “argument” that she is being sexist against men.

however it is simple fact (thanks partly to our grossly unfair maternity/paternity system) that women are more often the primary care givers.

your statement about abuse, violence and stalking is laughable.
and yes, every mother i know is spending her child benefit on toy boys and cheap booze. imagine if i said that about fathers! you’d be furious!

i really would recommend you read half the sky. i know it is looking at family situations outside the uk but it is interesting how it explores the benefits of supporting mothers in terms of child welfare.

I know you’re trolling but you did not seem to actually read the article, instead just jumping to calling cath sexist conclusions.

“If you are a rich fucker on £80 grand you’d just piss that £20 away on weird shit like dream-catchers or fruit.”

LOL

I highly disagree with this article. Anyone earning enough to be taxed at 40% clearly doesn’t need to be subsidised with Child Benefits. It’s not even like I’m some cold hearted right-winger or anything like that, I’m on the centre-left. I just don’t see the sense in child benefit being given as a universal benefit.

Even some Tories recognise why the child benefit is different:

But matters aren’t quite so simple. This is because it’s not a benefit at all. It’s basically a tax allowance which recognises the costs to parents of raising children. During the late 1970s, it was reformed, and paid directly to the mother (in most cases) rather than the father. The change was made because mothers usually bear the brunt of family childcare. The new payment was called Child Benefit – a mistake because, as we’ve seen, it’s an allowance, not a benefit.

http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2010/10/george-osbornes-child-benefit-cut-shouldnt-be-permanent.html

The Libdem volte-face is over this is so astonishing that I bet there will be more defections over this.

If CB is a pro-women policy, as is claimed, it is an incredibly innefficient one. We are talking about £1bn cost of paying people earning over 44k (significantly above the average by the way, not marginally as has been implied).

Cath says,

“Speak to anyone who works in the violence against women sector and they will tell you all about how some men use money as a way to exert power and control in a relationship; how many women are denied access to the family finances, and how Child Benefit is often the only money they ever get to see.”

Fair enough. But two questions you haven’t asked that same worker in the domestic abuse sectore:

1. How many of those women are married to men earning over 44k?
2. If you had £1bn to spend of government money to tackle domestic violence, would you spend it giving £20/week/child to every mother who themselves, or their husband earn in excess of 44k a year, or would you spend it on something more useful?

I have no idea of the answer to number 1 but suspect it would be low. However, I can confidently predict that the answer to 2 would be emphatically one sided.

It may be that you can contrive this cut to be unhelpful to women affected by domestic violence, but if that was the purpose of the policy in the first instance, then that was a phenominal failure too.

Three broader points too:

1. Does anyone have any stats on the ‘paid to women’ claim? I for one have our CB paid in to my wife and I’s joint account. And at no point was it encouraged that my wife recieved payments instead.
2. As a family on a slightly below average household income of c.25k I can say that CB is a help, but we would survive without it (admitedly we live somewhere with a low cost of living). If we had an extra 20k income, I would be astounded that it could be sugested we need it.
3. Having children was the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t need the state to pay me £20 a week to be reminded that it is an important thing to do. My daughter’s smile is enough and it is sto any decent parent I am sure.

The thing I find astonishing is that so no-one seems to have spotted the other announcement made by the Chancellor today. No family without a disability is to allowed to claim more than the average household income in all benefits combined. It sounds reasonable and even populist even the comments in the Guardian seem mostly positive but it’s actually rather nasty – at least in London.

If you have, say five kids and therefore need a four bedroom property in London, the new (reduced) HB cap is £400pw. Since the median household income is £26,000, that leaves less than £5,000 per annum to raise those five children on (of which at least £1,200 will go in Council tax). Party spokesmen have, apparently confirmed that they realise that this will drive unwaged households out of central London but, they ask, why should non-working people be subsidised to live in central London when many working households cannot afford to?

Except of course that it doesn’t apply equally to all non-working households. If you have a Council tenancy, your Housing Benefit will only come to around £6,000p.a. so you are unlikely to hit the total benefit cap – that only happens if you’re claiming HB to live in a private rented home.

What this means is that a household with a social tenancy where nobody has ever worked gets to stay in central London but, if you used to work and pay rent in the private sector but are now claiming HB to stay in your home while you look for a new job, you will be forced out – probably a long way out since rents on larger houses in outer London don’t leave a lot of change from £20,000pa.

Taken together with the Tories’ idiotic proposal to limit the duration of new social tenancies, it would appear that some sort of prize has been offered for the author of the silliest perverse incentive.

George Osborne last year:

“We will preserve child benefit, winter fuel payments and free TV licenses. They are valued by millions.” G Osborne, Oct 2009 conference

I have a stake in this. This will affect me directly.

I am pretty miffed to say the least.

This is another little perk that the baby boomers have enjoyed – to go alongside Final Salary Pensions, Rocketing House Prices and near full employment – which is about to be yanked away from future generations, including myself, because of the complete pigs ear the Right (whether Tory or New Labour) and its useful idiots have made of the utter car crash that is the British economy since 1979.

38. Chris Baldwin

This is a direct attack on the welfare state. Ed Miliband must promise to reverse this immediately if he becomes Prime Minister.

“It’s a recognition if you like that children are valued, and that society as a whole has an obligation to support its children.”

How about the argument that society as a whole does not have an argument to support its children.

They’re “your” children. Your genes being passed on, you’re the people getting the only form of immortality we humans get.

You take care of them.

I’m willing to agree that “society as a whole” has a duty to take care of those who are not capable of taking care of themselves in the sense of orphans, the indigent, the disabled, the ill, but saying that I must be financially repsonsible for the children of entirely hale and hearty parents is a step too far.

Raise ‘em your bloody self.

Thanks for that contribution Tim-there’s-no-such-thing-as-society-Thatcher-Worstall

39. Tim Worstall

How about the argument that society as a whole does not have an argument to support its children.

We all do have a stake in children, even if some stingy old gits don’t think so.

There are sound economic reasons for supporting kids as best we can as well as the obvious social ones.

cjcjc, Shatterface –

““If you are a rich fucker on £80 grand you’d just piss that £20 away on weird shit like dream-catchers or fruit.”

LOL”

I’ll see your LOL and raise you a ROFLMAO. Genius.

Seriously though –

1 – Not to be too much of a bleeding heart, but crunch the numbers through the IFS’s income distribution calculator and not every family on £44000 + is even in the top 50%.

2 – The same logic that people are using here to defend cutting higher earners’ entitlement to CB could equally well be used to defend cutting their entitlement to the state pension or use of the NHS. Ask yourself what the NHS or the pension system would look like in 20 or 50 years’ time if these were just treated as safety nets for the poor. (Clue: social housing started off being for everyone, but ended up being a safety net for the poor. How’s that looking a few decades on?) ‘Services for the poor will always be poor services’, as the soundbite goes. That’s why universalism matters. (And of course well-off people’s taxes cover the cost of their own CB – there’s no question of poor people paying for it.)

What is child benefit for? It’s an anachronism. If women want to have babies, let them pay for them. You take responsibility for your actions. At the very least it should be restricted to the first child. Full stop. It’s not as though Britain’s down to its last 100 human beings. It’s grossly overpopulated with humans. If you care about the environment, there is no argument at all for subsidising the production of more humans. After, all those environmentally aware people keep reiterating that global warming is a product of human activity. There should be no such thing as “child benefit”. I don’t ask the tax payer to shell out for the upkeep of my cat.

By the way ben@46, calling people old gits is an ageist remark. You know what the comments policy says about ageism – yes, sweet FA.

44. the a&e charge nurse

Under Ozzie’s new scheme a family with an income of almost £84k is still entitled to benefits subsidised by the taxpayer, and to suggests otherwise is to attack women?

So why draw the line at £84k? – are those women earning £100k or more also being “attacked”?

Maybe they are – maybe there is NO upper limit, or if there is a limit can anyone tell me what the actual figure is?

G.O. – I completely agree with you that ‘services for the poor will always be poor services’. But CB isn’t a service. It’s cash. Simple as. There is no way that £20 can be a good or a bad service. A £20 note looks exactly the same and buys exactly the same stuff irrespective of how many people the state is giving it to.

BenM – Similarly, yes it makes perfect sense to invest in all children the same when it comes to shared services like education. But we don’t say that children’s food and clothing should be socialised. So nor should the means to provide it. Any decent parent taking home over £2k a month who loses £80 won’t take that from their child’s clothing budget first. If they do, the kid has far bigger issues.

On my previous point about income distribution vs domestic violence. From a 2004 British Crime Survey analysis (not picked for any reason other than the first one I found with google):

“During the last year women in households with an income of less than £10,000
w e re three and a half times more likely to suffer domestic violence than those
living in households with an income of over £20,000″

Stats from the same report about houshold income distibution (excluding don’t knows/won’t answers):

Under 10k 43%
10k-20k 40%
20k+ 16%

So assuming a tail off as the pattern suggests, I would comforably say that less than 5%would be in the 44k+ bracket. So the vast majority of the women this article claims are protected by their CB (even ignoring the lack of direct evidence for that claim) would be completely unaffected by today’s changes.

Source: http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs04/hors276.pdf

46. Dick the Prick

@39 – bit hardcore there but it does seem a bit strange that as a single bloke who costs the taxpayer virtually nothing – well, I suppose I pay for the odd war or two and err…the use of a health service should I need it but other than that pay for everything else through the nose that kiddies who cost the taxpayer loads should also come with a Brucie bonus for parents who aswell. They get their schools paid for, jabs & stuff when they fall off bikes and all the other paraphenalia that accompanies them; well, it just seems odd to claim there’s some kind of requirement for benefits to be universal. Just seems odd, is all.

I genuinely don’t see the problem. And to claim this is discriminating to women has a massive whiff of governmental intrusion into family life which is bordering on the neurotic.

“this idea that people are “well off” just because they earn just above average is fatuous.”

Where ‘just above’ means almost double. However it is good to know that you think these people need a bit of extra help, perhaps you would also want to reduce the amount taken from them by tax then? No? Thought not. Just another example of how reactionary the left has become.

G.O. (#42); This isn’t a service, it’s a cash handout. That’s a big difference. And poor people certainly do pay for it – the rich taking child benefit back out reduces their net contribution.

Trofim (#43); child benefit is important because it cushions children from poverty. That’s why taking it away from the rich is such a good thing – it makes it more obvious that it isn’t just a congratulatory bonus for being fertile.

@43

There should be no such thing as “child benefit”. I don’t ask the tax payer to shell out for the upkeep of my cat.

Unless your cat is very clever, it is (alas) not going to grow up and hopefully become a productive, creative, intelligent member of society. Children – in the best case scenarios, natch – are. Even childless people know that the future of the nation rests in what happens to our young. Hence CB.

Disclaimer: I have no children and one cat. And about as much chance of earning £44K pa as Wales do of winning the next world cup.

My wife, who has previously worked for a domestic abuse charity has pointed out to me that I should have stated that those statistics are based on presentations. A large proportion of higher income victims do not present to refuges as they are far more often able to stay with family or check in to a hotel.

So whilst my presentation of those stats was perhaps not clear, they still underline my point. The people affected by today’s announcement do not need CB as some kind of protection from domestic abuse.

I like how suddenly the Tories have tried to fashion themselves as defenders of the poor – given they vociferously support getting rid of Inheritance tax for rich people.

But the Tories won’t change IHT. They won’t make it difficult for tax dodgers to avoid paying tax. But they will make life harder for the middle-classes. A brilliant electoral strategy, that.

[deleted]

[deleted]

54. astateofdenmark

The argument that benefits have to be universal otherwise they won’t get universal support I understand. Don’t agree but do understand.

The argument that taking benefits away from those who don’t need them is condoning domestic violence…words fail me.

55. Chaise Guevara

@49

“Disclaimer: I have no children and one cat. And about as much chance of earning £44K pa as Wales do of winning the next world cup.”

Until you have personally experienced the hardships of working for 44K p.a., you shouldn’t presume to comment :p

blanco, if you’re going to carry on frothing in rage on every thread you’ll find your comments automatically marked as spam soon enough. If you want to disagree with the article – fine, but stick to the comments policy.

57. Chaise Guevara

@blanco

“Why does someone who earns £40k+ need an extra £20 a week? Because it will somehow “de-legitimise” the principle that someone who earns £10k needs an extra £20 a week?”

No, of course not. The point is that a sizeable proportion of the middle classes will vote to protect a £20 payout that they don’t really need, but won’t vote to protect the same handout only going to those who truly need it. So to continue giving money to the poor, you have to give it to the moderately affluent as well. People who hate the welfare state often are surprising ok about the benefits they happen to be entitled to. It’s tactical, not a point of principle.

@denmark

“The argument that taking benefits away from those who don’t need them is condoning domestic violence…words fail me.”

The words you’re looking for are “it’s all a load of bollocks”. Some people are unable to think about any issue in any terms other than gender: those of the “this new tax system will affect 0.5% more women than men so it’s patriachal abuse” persuasion. The author seems to be among them.

Perhaps someone could explain in simple language why a local poll tax is utterly wicked while a universal poll cash benefit, paid regardless of income, is an inalienable right.

Completely agree with Cath on this!

60. Chaise Guevara

Jesus, Sunny. He WAS responding to the article. Deleting comments you disagree with is called ‘censorship’. This is your site and you have the technical right to silence people on it, but it makes a mockery of your liberal pretensions.

61. Chaise Guevara

@58

“Perhaps someone could explain in simple language why a local poll tax is utterly wicked while a universal poll cash benefit, paid regardless of income, is an inalienable right.”

Sure, although you’ll understand that I don’t think the “poll cash benefit” is either ideal or an inalienable right.

Basically, it’s down to the difference each makes to the individual. Both have a greater effect on the poor, because they’re at flat rate. By giving £20 handouts to the rich we can continue to give very important £20 handouts to the poor, which is horribly imperfect but better than nowt. On the other hand, taking £1,000 off a rich person isn’t in itself justification of taking that much off a poor person. It’s about redistribution.

More simply: giving the same amount of money to the rich and poor alike = broadly good. Taking the same amount of money from both = bad.

As part of a childless couple, I have to ask what’s fair about my girlfriend and I paying taxes so that people richer than us can continue to receive child benefit? We don’t intend to bring a child into the world until we can afford to care for it – with or without state help. The child will be our responsibility.

As for the point about domestic violence – if the full-time mum being beaten by her rich husband leaves him, then she stops being part of a couple and is then able to claim her child benefit. If anything, this would act as an incentive for the abused woman to leave.

63. Chaise Guevara

“As part of a childless couple, I have to ask what’s fair about my girlfriend and I paying taxes so that people richer than us can continue to receive child benefit? We don’t intend to bring a child into the world until we can afford to care for it – with or without state help. The child will be our responsibility.”

Well, it’s not particularly fair, but at least by doing so you’re supporting a system that makes sure the poorest kids are fed and clothed.

I have pretty mixed views on this. Removing the principle of universality does indirectly undermine the case for benefits for the poor. Morally it is pretty difficult to argue that the children of wealthier people should be subsidised at the same time as poorer people are facing cuts. Moreover, the childless are paying for those with children. However, there is an argument in favour of universality when it comes to children. Those who have children provide the next generation of workers and taxpayers. The population replacement rate is 2.1 and most high income countries struggle to maintain the replacement level. When a country becomes high income the birthrate falls because in a low income country a child is a benefit and in a high income country they are a cost. Therefore, the birthrate falls. So there is a case for subsidising and reducing the cost of the care of children because they are the future economy.

By all means Sunny, silence dissent if you want. I used to enjoy reading LC but it seems to me that you’re willing to do anything as long as it can score a political point or win a political argument.

For example, the stuff you said about how Ed Miliband should bash immigrants because it would get the right-wing press off his back. Not only does that not work, it’s unprincipled, it crosses a line, and it is morally repugnant. It would be nice if the leader of the supposedly centre-left party didn’t parrot his odious forebears by bashing immigrants out of fear for what the Mail would say about them.

And as for this benefit cut: Chaise said “The point is that a sizeable proportion of the middle classes will vote to protect a £20 payout that they don’t really need, but won’t vote to protect the same handout only going to those who truly need it” – i would like to see some evidence for this, but the central point is the admission that the middle classes do not need this benefit. So why should they get it? When there are other people who need it more than them? Do people get to vote on what benefits are cut anyway? According to you both the Tories and the Lib Dems promised not to cut back on universal benefits (although I’m pretty sure the LDs said they would, along with abolishing the child trust fund and cutting back on child tax credits). So how will these middle classes vote to remove benefits for poor people?

I thought the principle was “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” If people don’t need state help, let the state give it to those who will. Rather than waste money trying to bribe people not to be arseholes, how about we try and convince them that the welfare state actually benefits everyone (in the end), even if they don’t get out in monetary terms what they put it?

I honestly don’t see how £20 a week given to one of the parents is going to get people to vote Labour (because I presume that’s what people are getting at here). The more you earn, the less you get out of the welfare state what you pay in. Do the top 50% of earners flee the UK as a result? No, because I think people have more compassion and more social awareness than they are given credit for.

Seriously – painting it as a sexist attack only makes it harder for people who are on the fence to be convinced. It just puts people off. As does your defence of Ed Balls bashing immigrants, and your advocating Miliband also bashes immigrants.

Build bridges, man.

The “replenishing the population” argument for children being a benefit to society is laughable while there are (we’re told) hordes of fully grown people beating at the gates to be allowed to live here.

(Like I said in an earlier comment, I *do* support child benefit for those who need it, but that’s because those children also happen to be people)

Chaise Guevara (and blanco)

“Some people are unable to think about any issue in any terms other than gender: those of the “this new tax system will affect 0.5% more women than men so it’s patriachal abuse” persuasion. The author seems to be among them.”

According to Fawcett some “72 per cent of cuts will be met from women’s income as opposed to 28 per cent from men’s. This is because many of the cuts are to the benefits that more women than men rely on, and the changes to the the tax system will benefit far more men than women.” 72% v 28% is a bit more than 0.05% it seems to me.

Add to that the cuts to the public sector, a sector which both employs and is used by far more many women than men, plus today’s nonsense from Gideon, and it’s hard not to notice a bit of a pattern building.

Also, how is pointing out that the cuts agenda is a sexist agenda that will disproportionately impact on women, sexist? It’s not me making a gender issue out of the cuts ffs, it’s the bloody government!

68. Matt Munro

@ 39 Unless you were born a full grown adult and/or pre ww2 you will have enjoyed healthcare, education ,and proxy cash benefits as a child, all provided by other taxpayers.
The problem with not “subsidising” children is you would end up with only the rich and the poor having children, the middle classes would stop having kids – they are already having fewer – and in 20 years time the economy would collapse

@Chaise

“Well, it’s not particularly fair, but at least by doing so you’re supporting a system that makes sure the poorest kids are fed and clothed.”

yes, and we support the system for the poorest kids, not for everyone else who might not need it. do we apply the principle of universality to all taxes and and benefits? why not simply tax everyone at the same flat rate, and give back to the poorest in tax credits? we as a country accept that not only do we pay more in tax if we earn more, we pay more as a proportion of what we earn.

i want to see this money go to the poor, and for the left to defend that principle that the welfare state exists for everyone. £20 a week doesn’t make a difference to people’s opinions on that issue. Win the argument.

@Cath

watch it with the “gideon”, you know the storm Paul Sagar got himself into for that….

Cath; do those figures come with an estimate of what proportion of current benefit spending goes to women and what proportion to men? They’re pretty meaningless on their own.

72. Matt Munro

@ 67. You talk as though men and women inhabit different universes. Cuts that affect household incomes affect all the people in that household, men and women.
What you are saying in effect is that under the last govt, women benefitted disproportionately from public spending and the balance is now being restored

(Also, I had a look at the Fawcett Society website and they seem to have forgotten to reference the source for their 72% claim – any ideas?)

@40: “Thanks for that contribution Tim-there’s-no-such-thing-as-society-Thatcher-Worstall”

Probably those more familiar with mainstream sociology literature will appreciate the “no-such-thing-as-society” observation predates Mrs T by several decades.

Try this illuminating analysis from the late Professor WJH Sprott:

“The answer to the first question – ‘What is a society?’ is that it is a figment of the imagination. . . The fact is that in physics and chemistry you start with lumps of matter; you then analyse things into their chemical elements, into different combinations of entities, protons and the like. Far from being directly acquainted with the elements, it is not unknown for philosophers to question the existence of them. Equally nonsensical is it to say that we have a direct acquaintance with society. We do not. We have direct acquaintance only with people interacting, ie the elements of society, in so far as as it exists at all, is constituted. So I say that society is in some sense a figment of imagination. But we do in fact have in our minds models of the society in which we live. You can, if some foreigner asks questions about your society, refer to your model – not a very clear one perhaps; ‘scheme’ would be a better word in use. But you have some sort of model with its political system, economic system, legal system, religious system class system and so on. You have some sort of model in your mind of the society in which you live and, if you go abroad, you prepare a model which you hope will correspond in some sort of way with the society they happen to have.”

[Source: "Society: what is it and how does it change?" from The Educational Implications of Social and Economic Change (HMSO 1967), reprinted in: DF Swift (ed): Basic Readings in the Sociology of Education (Routledge, 1970)]

Btw on Sebastian Sprott, the Bloomsbury Group and his friendship with Maynard Keynes, see Paul Levy on: The Bloomsbury Group
http://www.ua.es/personal/jalvarez/Word/Adiciones%20de%202005/levy.rtf

75. the a&e charge nurse

[61] “By giving £20 handouts to the rich we can continue to give very important £20 handouts to the poor, which is horribly imperfect but better than nowt”.

Well I suppose that’s an improvement on that idea that rich women are being “attacked” if they are not subsidised by the poor?

Are you saying that it is simply beyond our technical know-how to give to one group but not the other, or absence of political will to make this sort of distinction?

I must admit I have felt a bit of a fraud (for the last 10 years or so) because my family has received child benefits without there being a “need” in any meaningful sense of the word.

While I have no regard for Ozzie, or indeed his tory mates, I have always believed that benefits should be aimed at those who actually need them rather than representing some form of token hand out.

The logic in the OP simply doesn’t make sense when there are some very affluent individuals (some who happen to be female) are receiving hand outs funded by workers earning far, far less – I mean why would anybody wish to perpetuate this iniquitous state of affairs?

76. Chaise Guevara

@ Cath

“According to Fawcett some “72 per cent of cuts will be met from women’s income as opposed to 28 per cent from men’s. This is because many of the cuts are to the benefits that more women than men rely on, and the changes to the the tax system will benefit far more men than women.” 72% v 28% is a bit more than 0.05% it seems to me.”

OK, I admit the 0.5% thing is rhetorical. But the points stand: firstly, ANY change is going to affect some groups more than others. It’s completely unavoidable. Secondly: why will this affect women so much more than men? I suspect it’s because it involves child credits, which are paid to the mother for some arcane reason. Make the system fair to begin with, by paying the parents equally (assuming they both still look after the child) and hey presto: suddenly things look a lot more even.

“Add to that the cuts to the public sector, a sector which both employs and is used by far more many women than men, plus today’s nonsense from Gideon, and it’s hard not to notice a bit of a pattern building.”

By this argument you can’t cut anything from the public sector, ever, because doing so is sexist. Doesn’t that show you how much you’re skewing the issue?

“Also, how is pointing out that the cuts agenda is a sexist agenda that will disproportionately impact on women, sexist? It’s not me making a gender issue out of the cuts ffs, it’s the bloody government!”

Because ‘disproportionately affects women’ and ‘sexist’ are two different issues. You’re the one making the leap between them; ergo, it is you that is making this a gender issue.

To return to the central point: do you agree that spending money on armour for soldiers is sexist, because most soliders are men and the money thus disproportionately saves male lives? And are you going to campaign to stop public funding for breast cancer screening on the same principle?

@ Kev & Jason

Re services for the poor being poor services, & CB being cash not a service:

Well – no, it’s not a service. Nor is the state pension, say. But I don’t see why the same broad principle shouldn’t apply: if the NHS was just for the poor, the quality of service received would deteriorate over time, & if the state pension (or CB) was just for the poor, its cash value would depreciate over time.

More generally, it just seems obvious to me that if better-off people feel that they’re paying a lot of money into the system and getting nothing back, that’s generally going to feed into resentment of the money that goes to the poor. The right-wing press is already full of ‘why are we paying these spongers to breed like rabbits?’ stories – at the minute they’re about out-of-work benefits, but how long before that’s how people see Child Benefit?

78. Chaise Guevara

Blanco:

“And as for this benefit cut: Chaise said “The point is that a sizeable proportion of the middle classes will vote to protect a £20 payout that they don’t really need, but won’t vote to protect the same handout only going to those who truly need it” – i would like to see some evidence for this…”

Well, I don’t have the figures, but what I’m saying is “a certain proportion of people act selfishly”, which I don’t think is particularly controversial.

“, but the central point is the admission that the middle classes do not need this benefit. So why should they get it? When there are other people who need it more than them?”

They shouldn’t. T’is a least-worst system.

” Do people get to vote on what benefits are cut anyway? According to you both the Tories and the Lib Dems promised not to cut back on universal benefits (although I’m pretty sure the LDs said they would, along with abolishing the child trust fund and cutting back on child tax credits). So how will these middle classes vote to remove benefits for poor people?”

It all adds up. The fact that one issue rarely swings things on its own does not make that issue politically irrelevant. Add some more popular policies like, I don’t know, kicking out immigrants and pushing up jail sentences, and your electoral odds are improved at the next poll.

“I thought the principle was “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” If people don’t need state help, let the state give it to those who will. Rather than waste money trying to bribe people not to be arseholes, how about we try and convince them that the welfare state actually benefits everyone (in the end), even if they don’t get out in monetary terms what they put it?”

Agreed in principle, but how? I’m not sure you can change people’s natures that easily. Even if you could, a government campaign to promote its values would NOT go down well, especially in These Troubled Economics Times.

“I honestly don’t see how £20 a week given to one of the parents is going to get people to vote Labour (because I presume that’s what people are getting at here). The more you earn, the less you get out of the welfare state what you pay in. Do the top 50% of earners flee the UK as a result? No, because I think people have more compassion and more social awareness than they are given credit for.”

I think it’s because people are more apathetic than we give them credit for. However, you’re right in that the whole theory works on the assumption that people’s voting habits will be affected. If not, then I’m wrong, and I confess I can’t prove it.

“Seriously – painting it as a sexist attack only makes it harder for people who are on the fence to be convinced. It just puts people off. As does your defence of Ed Balls bashing immigrants, and your advocating Miliband also bashes immigrants.”

Agreed. Sunny, if you’re listening, kindly observe blanco responding to the issue at hand.

79. Dick the Prick

@68 – yeah, I know. But we’re not talking poor families here. My old dear raised me & our lad on her todd and family allowance was a lifeline back in the 70’s because my errant biological father found it oh, so terribly amusing to withold maintenance payments – such a japer!

But we’re talking about £44k.

If there’s loads of kids and a single parent then arsehole the dead beat dads for the change in circumstances, get the CSA an adrenalin shot. If it’s stay at home mums or dads then, yeah, tough break but I find it a bit esoteric to give a toss.

Well in favour of family allowance but just to lob it out in a carpet bomb approach seems to affect a tiny minority of people who, yer know, I couldn’t give a toss about. Soz, well not really.

80. Dick the Prick

PS – won’t tax credit margins alter anyway?

Hah. I managed to track down the source of those figures, no wonder they didn’t link to them – a GCSE maths student would be ashamed of their “analysis”.

http://www.yvettecooper.com/women-bear-brunt-of-budget-cuts

G.O.; the reason services suffer by being deserted by the well-off is* that the well-off are more able to Get Something Done if they experience a poor service, which lifts the standards for everybody. That doesn’t apply to a cash handout.

* Source: evidence-free intuition

83. Chaise Guevara

“Hah. I managed to track down the source of those figures, no wonder they didn’t link to them – a GCSE maths student would be ashamed of their “analysis”.

http://www.yvettecooper.com/women-bear-brunt-of-budget-cuts

Nice one.

OK, taking childcare and maternity out of the equation, it appears from the figures that women are losing more in tax credits and paying less in CGT. It also shows they’re losing more in pensions.

So, in other words, these changes hit the poorest hardest, which is what we should be shouting about. Now, the fact that women are poorer than men is definitely a problem, but it’s not really connected to the matter at hand. In other words, this is NOT a gender issue. It’s another case of the poor getting shafted

@63 Chaise Guevara

As blanco says at 69, I have no objection to paying in to a system to help the poorest (I have often declared my support for the Negative Income Tax to be our sole tax and benefit system). People need money to live and I’m enough of a human to understand that means we all need to contribute.

But that doesn’t mean I should also be paying for child benefit for those who live in 4 bed homes with 2 BMWs out front.

85. Chaise Guevara

“As blanco says at 69, I have no objection to paying in to a system to help the poorest (I have often declared my support for the Negative Income Tax to be our sole tax and benefit system). People need money to live and I’m enough of a human to understand that means we all need to contribute.

But that doesn’t mean I should also be paying for child benefit for those who live in 4 bed homes with 2 BMWs out front.”

On principle, no you shouldn’t. I agree. However, assuming (and I concede it’s an assumption) that the idea that we need to protect services for the rich to prevent them voting to cut services for the poor is accurate, we have two real-world choices:

1) Maintain child support for those who need it, perhaps phasing payments based on income so nobody feels they lose out by being on the wrong side of an arbitrary line. After awhile, the well-off get fed up with paying for this and pressure the government into cutting the service entirely (or vote in another party with less interest in welfare).

2) Provide childcare for all, hopefully still phasing payments but not to the extent where the well off get nothing. Put up with the rich freeloading. Everyone feels they benefit and so no goverment will get rid of the service.

Of those two imperfect solutions, I prefer option 2. What about you?

£44k wouldn’t get you on the bottom rung of the housing ladder where I live and if you could get a mortgage at all, with kids you’d struggle even if not as badly as many earning less.

George Osborne wants me to ask the question “Why should I pay for the kids of the rich?”. Sorry George, but if it’s OK with you I’ll stick with “Does not the whole of society have a responsibility to all its children?”

If he was truly interested in fairness he’d be hitting the bankers for another billion – but that wouldn’t involve undermining the welfare state would it?

Jason:

“the reason services suffer by being deserted by the well-off is* that the well-off are more able to Get Something Done if they experience a poor service, which lifts the standards for everybody. That doesn’t apply to a cash handout.”

I don’t see why not. If the well-off felt some handout they were receiving was insulting, they’d be able to Get Something Done. (Remember the 75p pension increase? That didn’t cause universal outrage because poor, vulnerable old folk weren’t getting a big enough handout – it caused universal outrage because Hardworking People who’d paid into the system all their lives didn’t then get enough back.)

Cath – child benefit is already means-tested for people on benefits. If this represents a breach of the principles of the welfare state, I have to tell you that it happened a long time ago.

http://tinyurl.com/33doayr

The more I think about this bafflingly ill-thought out policy the more I think it’s only being done (or only being announced at this time) as a sweetner for the poor-bashing that is just around the corner (*waves at spending “review”*). From the comments here alone it’s clear that a significant number of people aren’t that arsed about CB being taken from the rich and that is going to make it a helluva lot easier for the gov to slash the services of the poor without a word of discord from the middle-upper. Crafty politics by George, then, rather than wanton stupidity as I first thought.

Oh, to those saying the Left has no problem with taxing the super-rich: a tax-rise would hit everyone earning above whatever amount was targeted. A CB cut takes money from a specific group. Obvs.

Shuggy

“child benefit is already means-tested for people on benefits”

No it’s not, it’s taken into account when other payments are means tested, but the amount of child benefit itself remains unchanged.

You don’t add that receipt of Child Benefit also maintains the parent’s National Insurance contributions, if they are unwaged. For a stay at home parent this is a big blow and could remove their right to a state pension or to claim job seekers allowance. This could have massive consequences should the relationship breakdown.

No it’s not, it’s taken into account when other payments are means tested

It counts as income, in other words. You keep the child benefit but you lose a share of child support via income support or whatever – and you are somehow persuaded this doesn’t constitute means-testing? Come off it…

As does your defence of Ed Balls bashing immigrants, and your advocating Miliband also bashes immigrants.

Yeah, I’m like the new Enoch Powell around here. If you’re going to come at me with such lame arguments while ignoring what I wrote in those cases, don’t expect me to pay any attention blanco.

Heh heh.

Daily Mail goes berserk as it readers twig “cuts means you too” and if you vote Tory and aren’t a banker or a multi-millionaire Tory donor then the Tories are only interested in you for your ability to grease up and grab your own ankles.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1317740/Child-benefit-cuts-Families-44K-year-stay-home-wife-lose-it.html

94.Captain Swing

Heh heh.

Daily Mail goes berserk as it readers twig “cuts means you too”

Ironic isn’t it?

Wait for the screams when they realise it’s their jobs too…

“George Osborne wants me to ask the question “Why should I pay for the kids of the rich?”. Sorry George, but if it’s OK with you I’ll stick with “Does not the whole of society have a responsibility to all its children?””

And we express that by paying over tax receipts back to people earning nearly twice the national average wage? Pull the other one.

This thread has given a nice insight into the minds of some of the left. At a time when there is a government committing to cutting the deficit, you’d think stopping a subsidy of higher rate taxpayers would go down well. Instead, you’d prefer everyone was on some kind of benefits, in order that everyone would have some or other cause to be grateful to the Labour Party. Cringing serfdom for all! And all paid for by wonderful Ballsonomics – borrow now, borrow later.

Notice the silence from the New generation party, total silence, I bet they are all saying, yes we would have done that, we would have, yes yes , hold on we are labour, no no! we are the new generation.

This policy change is ideological and shows the direction the Coalition want society to move in. What I find depressing is how many who consider themselves progressive are happy to buy into this because of their dislike for the rich.

“Why should I pay for rich people’s children?”

Well why should any of us pay for other people’s street lights, garbage collection, healthcare, bus passes…? No sense of the value of common goods then?

This is a retrograde step and will lead to a more divided, unhappy society which is why progressives should oppose it. Child Benefit is one of the few examples of a truly redistributive policy which is one of the main reasons it has been targeted.

“how many women are denied access to the family finances, and how Child Benefit is often the only money they ever get to see.”

But how would this proposal change this? If the only money a women gets to see is child benefit then they are clearly not a higher rate taxpayer.

Cherub,

This is a retrograde step and will lead to a more divided, unhappy society which is why progressives should oppose it. Child Benefit is one of the few examples of a truly redistributive policy which is one of the main reasons it has been targeted.

How is child benefit redistributive, if it is paid back to those who pay the taxes in the first place? That is better defined as pointless or wasteful.

Redistribution involves taking money from those who can afford it to help those who cannot. Unless you believe that child benefit automatically benefits children (a bit of a strech to believe, as it is paid to the parents and can be spent on alchohol as easily as nappies) you cannot claim that my paying tax then receiving child benefit (which unless someone gives me a better job will continue to happen in 2013) is really redistributive.

And as for progressives, assuming that has a meaning other than ‘sounds good’, are progressives in favour of standing up and saying ‘we must make cuts, but we cannot cut the benefits of the richer people, so they will be targetted on the poor’. Not any version of progressive thinking I’ve met, but then again it is such a malleable term that you could be right…

Planeshift –

” If the only money a women gets to see is child benefit then they are clearly not a higher rate taxpayer.”

No, but her partner might be – and under this proposal, she’ll therefore lose child benefit.

102. Planeshift

“No, but her partner might be – and under this proposal, she’ll therefore lose child benefit.”

Unless they are seperated, i.e. she is a shelter in which case she gets it. It’s only in the same house where this becomes even a theoretical issue. And then I strongly suspect an abusive partner who takes control over all the money is also going to take the child benefit anyway, even if initially paid into her bank account.

My mum’s child benefit went on cigarettes – and she didn’t even share them, either.

But anyway. This cut is fine, and I wholeheartedly support it. The unfairness inherent in the system that favours both people working is a bit odd, but so is the tax system in general, in that regard. Amusing that it runs directly contrary to ‘traditional’ tory values, though.

People on £44K/year just don’t need this money for its intended purpose – buying stuff for the child.

Yes, 44K isn’t a lot if you happen to be living in a middle-of-the range flat in london and working and popping your kid into a nursery. But it’s more than three times what the cleaners at the nursery – who also live in london – are likely to be getting. Some of those will have children too. Get some perspective, for crying out loud.

The money’s not meant to be used to help women escape abusive relationships, so the argument that sometimes it might maybe possibly help towards that aim is neither here nor there.

With IDS’s welfare reforms ticking along, I do wonder if we could get it integrated into that – if everyone’s assessed for the same benefit, and just get different amounts (from ‘nothing at all’ to ‘all living costs’) based on circumstances – is that universal enough?

Oh, and we really should be encouraging everyone to have as many kids as possible on this island. Otherwise we’ll be relying on immigration to pay our (state and private) pensions as we retire – and the daily mail would like that even less…

I totally agree with you Cath. I never even thought about the efect this could have on abused women.
Taking away Child Benefit is a joke!
44k is not alot of money these days when you have a morgage, student loans, childcare and everything else to pay for!
It’s sounds alot of money but after you get taxed at the higher bracket you don’t get left with alot. Also, if you are earning that amount it’s highly likely that you are living in an area where it cost hundreds of thousands for a cupboard!
Luckily we won’t be affected by the changes as it is only based on 1 income not joint but what about the SAHM and single mothers/fathers?
Where did the Tories do their research to decide 44k was high enough not to need child benefit?
I could understand if they were cutting it for the super rich but even then if you have paid taxes all your life why shouldn’t you deserve child benefit?This was originally set up to benefit the child. If the money is spent on food, childcare or even out in a saving account for the child it is still there for the child and EVERY child should have the same!
Families on a lower income are entitled to tax credits and a few other benefits if your are earnings low.
Child Benefit never has never ben means tested and shouldn’t be now!

105. Chaise Guevara

“I could understand if they were cutting it for the super rich but even then if you have paid taxes all your life why shouldn’t you deserve child benefit?”

Basic principle of progressive taxation: take from the rich, give to the poor. If we distributed tax benefits based on how much each person paid in there’d be no point having benefits in the first place.

Basic principle of progressive taxation: take from the rich, give to the poor. If we distributed tax benefits based on how much each person paid in there’d be no point having benefits in the first place.

For most middle earnings this the only benefit they ever receive and it is for the child. Someone who has never worked in their life by CHOICE and popped out 12 kids will be entitled to child benefit for each of these children but if my partner earns 44k we won’t get any even though we have worked all our lives and damn hard?!
The benefit system is a good system as we never know what could happen tomorrow but shouldn’t the people taking the micky out of it be looked at? It seems to me that the harder you work to achieve a better life for yourself and your children the more you are punished

107. Chaise Guevara

I’m not quite sure what you’re after here, Nicola. On the one hand you’re defending the benefit system, and I fully support you there, but at the same time you’re complaining that “the harder you work to achieve a better life for yourself and your children the more you are punished”, which is a libertarian anthem and exactly the kind of thing people say when they’re arguing against benefits! If we’re going to help the poor, higher-earners will have to be taxed more than lower-earners. There’s no getting around that.

As for what you say about people choosing not to work but getting benefits: that happens less than people seem to think, but it DOES happen, and it pisses me off too. But, as you rightly said yourself, this benefit is for the children. If we stopped paying benefits to the workshy (assuming we could even find a way of identifying them) their children would suffer as a result, which is even worse.

108. Chaise Guevara

*BTW, I’m not saying I support this proposal. 44k SOUNDS like a lot of money to me, but I leave in a cheap part of the country and have no dependents and not too much debt. I’m saying that I can’t see any moral reason to give benefits to the genuinely super-rich, although there may be a tactical reason.

Nicola – the 44K rate was chosen /because/ it’s the boundary for the higher tax rate.

44K sounds like a lot because it is a lot. Myself and my partner, combined, are on about 40K. We rent a two-bedroom house, are getting up to two-car status shortly (still learning to drive!) and spend a hell of a lot of discretionary money in the supermarket. Oh, and we get a foreign holiday every year, and a domestic one too. We can afford pets (2 cats), and any manner of electrical gadgetry that we like, and still have money left over for saving or stuff.

We’re in one of the more expensive cities in the north of england, incidentally. It’s probably not a patch on london, but the wages are lower too.

44K is not impoverished, and anyone who thinks it is difficult to ‘get by’ on such a number – whether that’s single, joint or joint+kid – is a soft, cushioned nancy who needs to reassess their priorities. Seriously. I have no sympathy. Try living on 12-17K instead, let me know how that works for you.

Of course, 40K isn’t enough for a mortgage, not really – but the money child benefit provides isn’t going to change that, particularly.

110. Chaise Guevara

“Try living on 12-17K instead, let me know how that works for you.”

It’s not too bad, actually. In Manchester at least. Very little wriggle-room, though, and the savings vanish every summer when the car insurance needs renewing.

Chaise – yeah – tight, but doable. Dipping into the ‘hardship’ section at times, and with a child, difficult to make ends meet consistently. Losing a thousand pounds of child benefit would mean real pain somewhere – no car, perhaps.

On 40K, you can just absorb it without making any painful lifestyle changes. If I’m slightly less lazy/picky, I can spend £100-200/month less just on the food portion of my budget. Or we could be a single-car household instead of a two-car household (we’re only getting two cars because I don’t really want to share :p). Etc.

Now, my intermittently benefit-cheating mother who I’m sure Nicola would love to take child benefits off of, she really needed the child benefit. Not having it would have meant giving up smoking.

Actually, it wouldn’t have. It would have meant halving the food budget (£30/week->£15/week or so) and me walking to college, while she continued to smoke – but there you go. The principle’s more or less the same. Not even close to comparable to the plight of the poor darlings on 40K who absolutely can’t take the pain, dah-ling.

Sorry, I realise I’ve been slightly abrasive in these last couple of comments, but unrealisingly privileged people really get my goat ;)

112. Chaise Guevara

“Sorry, I realise I’ve been slightly abrasive in these last couple of comments, but unrealisingly privileged people really get my goat”

Think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I don’t want to misrepresent my circumstances too much, by the way, so I should say that while my income falls within the range you gave (gross), I do come from an affluent enough family. I’m young, so if narrative causality works I should be earning a more middle-class wage within a few years.

Any road… you’re right. If someone’s on 40k and says they can’t afford a 1k tax hit, then either 1) they have monster debts that they are only now beginning to pay off (and or some other uncommon major outgoing like a gambling addiction) or 2) they’re blind. At the very most, they might need to up stakes and move to a slightly smaller house or less pretty area. I don’t like the idea of people having to move home because of a new government policy, but there are always losers in any tax change, and if losing 1/41th of their income is enough to force them to move then they’ve been sailing perilously close to the wind anyway.

Of course, there will always be anecdotal (but real) exception, like the gambler or the debtor, or someone with serious medical expenses that the NHS doesn’t cover. And the state should be helping some of these people.

I don’t think 44k is living in poverty, me and my partner combined earn 39k but it isn’t the massive amount everyone seems to think!
We live in an expensive area, we had to buy as living above a drug addict which isn’t the sort of thing I wanted my daughter around!
After childcare, bills, morgage etc we are not left with a massive amount and live on a strict budget!Yes we have sky and 2 cars (both 9 years old and needed for work) but we have not had a holiday since our daughter was born or any other luxuries expected on that money (3 years ago I would have thought I was rich on that amount). Of course I don’t begrudge this I have a wonderful daughter as as for the Sky and 2 cars we work hard for what we have.
Childcare is £500 a month which we get no help towards other then child benefit and that is what we spend it on.
I don’t think Child Benefit should be cut AT ALL for any mother!
Think you misunderstood before, I do think the benefit system is good in many ways and know this money has to come from somewhere but why child benefit?There are benefit thiefs who work and claim unemployment benefits and parents who claim they are single when not to get benefits can’t the money be saved by cracking down on these people rather than punishing hard workers.
Yes maybe child benefit could be cut but why a 44k?After tax and outgoings how much is actually left?
I agree 44k SOUNDS like alot of money but in this day and age you are not rich on this amount. Taxes are going up, many companies have pay freezes and now some families are losing child benefit.

I won’t be affected by this in 2013 as jointly not even at 44k but I still do not agreed with child benfit being cut at 44k. Some Stay at Home Mums and single parents will lose this benefit but if a couple is earning 40k each (80k in total) they will lose this benefit how is that fair?

And long till Child Benefit is cut completely?!

I would also like to say that I have never had priviledged lifestyle, my mum was a single parent (child benefit was sometimes the only money we had for food) and I worked full-time to pay myself through full-time uni.
I know now I am lucky to have what I have now but even then if we lost child benefit we would have to get rid of something and I would probably give up work (I’m not giving all my pay away in childcare!)

And I don’t think benefit cheats should lose their child benefit as as rightly said it would punish the child!They should go to jail instead as they are stealing.

Child Benefit is for the child and every child should be treated the same.

@Nicola

If £44,000 isn’t a lot of money, what – in your opinion – is? I’m not being disingenous, I’m curious as to how different people define “rich”. For example: one of my old schoolfriends currently lives and works in west London and complains about money despite earning c.£28K a year. I live in east Lancashire and the last full time job I had paid £14K a year which not only covered my bills, rent, gas, electric, council tax, cd collection, food and one (small) cat, but allowed me to get drunk most weekends. Oh and I was living in a two-bedroomed house for £350 a month. So I think of anything above – say – £22K as “rich” but I’m fully aware that living costs are insanely different across the country.

115. Chaise Guevara

“If £44,000 isn’t a lot of money, what – in your opinion – is? I’m not being disingenous, I’m curious as to how different people define “rich”. For example: one of my old schoolfriends currently lives and works in west London and complains about money despite earning c.£28K a year. I live in east Lancashire and the last full time job I had paid £14K a year which not only covered my bills, rent, gas, electric, council tax, cd collection, food and one (small) cat, but allowed me to get drunk most weekends. Oh and I was living in a two-bedroomed house for £350 a month. So I think of anything above – say – £22K as “rich” but I’m fully aware that living costs are insanely different across the country.”

Hah! 14K is in fact my exact wage (although I have an extra 1.2K from other sources). I find that I do ok: I can drink whenever I like, although not at the pub; on the rare occasions that I buy chicken, it’s free range (that’s a moral thingamijigg rather than a preference thingamiwotsit); rent comes in at a very bearable £250. On the other hand, I struggle to save £50 a month and spend most of that on sort-of necessities, like keeping the car running. And if any large unexpected expense comes in I’m fucked, obviously. Also, I have no cat, and that pisses me off because I grew up thinking a catless house was incomplete.

As for £22k being ‘rich': here and now, I agree. I’d love to earn that kind of money. But I used to work with someone who earned £14k, same as me, who told me he’d earned in the low 20s when living in London doing pretty much the same job. I asked how he’d handled the cut back from 20-odd to 14, and he told me that he now actually had more disposable income. The London/rest-of-UK financial dichotomy has to be addressed.

116. Chaise Guevara

Hi, Nicola:

“Think you misunderstood before, I do think the benefit system is good in many ways and know this money has to come from somewhere but why child benefit?There are benefit thiefs who work and claim unemployment benefits and parents who claim they are single when not to get benefits can’t the money be saved by cracking down on these people rather than punishing hard workers.”

I agree: cracking down on child benefit is a shitty, heartless way of doing business. As to the benefit thieves thing, though: these people will always exist, but tracking them down is expensive, and they tend not to have much money. As a result, it often costs more to catch and prosecute them than you recoup in back taxes and fines. So in pure financial terms, going after benefit thieves is not productive. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a moral case for catching them, of course.

I’d rather see the rich get targeted. Not because I think being rich is wrong, but because people who have been lucky enough to gain a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources should have to give a lot of that back to support their fellow man. Of course, those of us in the UK have all got a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources.

Spot on Chaise – I also forgot to mention I’m an unrepentant smoker, but if I moved to London would quit in an instant. Oh and when drawing up a budget the cat was the cheapest thing on the list!
The thing is because most of the opinion-formers, lobbiests, politicians and other parasites professional people live and work in the capital I think opinion can be skewed somewhat. In all sorts of directions.
So while the CB cut may not be felt by someone living where I do or where you do who earns £44K+, in London it may be more noticeable.
Damned if I can think of a solution though. Other than force businesses to spread out more evenly across the country .. ?

Mr S Pill

I some areas of the country 44k is a massive amount of money. I know where I’m from (a little fishing village) we could have an amazing house and a decent amount of money after but then we wouldn’t be on the money we are on where we are so defeats the point. (Plus I don’t want to move).
I think jointly if you are on 50k – 70k you are rich. I don’t think you are poor if you are on 44k a year but bear in mind after tax that is £29,660.40 which is £2,471.70 a month (based on paying a student loan back). After a morgage of lets say around £1000 a month (average in my area) , council tax, buildings insurance/boiler maintence etc that comes with owning a house, electric/gas, childcare, food and any other little things that pop up (dentist, car tax/mot, tv licence) there isn’t alot left. But as you said this is widely depending on the area you live in. We live in Aberdeenshire where the Oil and Gas is promenant so high earnings in that respect but then high house prices.

As I said 3 years ago what we jointly earn now I would of thought we would be rich but reality doesn’t work like that and when I was single after rent I lived on £40/£50 a week which fed me, topped up my phone and paid for my nights out . But then again you only have to compare your grocery shopping prices to see a massive increase in the price of food etc

To me it shouldn’t matter how much you earn Child Benefit has always been universal. This was never mentioned during the election that Child benefit could be cut. Child trust fund vouchers are being discontinued, tax credit cut off has been lowered, childcare vouchers also being discontinued and now child benefit. when you add that loss up it is a massive amount!

When you have children you will no longer get £250 to put in a trust fund for your child that I did. If you earn 44k you will get no child benefit or tax credits when 6 months ago you would have got all of this. Is this fair to you or your future children that if born last year you would have got all of this but now you won’t get anything?Children are alot more expensive then you would think.

I’m not disputing the fact that the countrys debt needs to be paid but I do not agree with cutting Child Benefit to workers earning over 44k.

[oh, and that was a response to 115 btw]

@Nicola 118

I agree. As I’ve said a bit ago in the comments, I think raising general taxation would be a fairer way of raising money (and would get more money as well). But there is an issue to address (and I don’t know how it can be resolved) in that folk can earn what seems to me to be a lot of money and still feel like they’re struggling… the main thing is housing costs it would appear. which is a whole big mess in itself

and I hope you better-off people will stick up for us less fortunate when Osborne’s axe comes our way ;)

121. Chaise Guevara

@117

Ah yes, the smoking thing. Forgot to mention that too, but it’s a habit, dammit! The fact that it’s also a pleasure is neither here nor there. Also, the legal smoking age was 16 when I started, so as far as I’m concerned I signed a defacto contract (“I hereby swear that I will carry on smoking or suffer horrible withdrawal, grumpiness and general loss of quality of life”) before I legally came of age.

That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it.

There’s no solution to the London/provinces thing, although just maybe our news sources could be convinced to admit that the difference exists instead of writing disingenous headlines. (POSH WOMAN IN YORKSHIRE WHO LOOKS LIKE YOU HAS TO PAY 50% TAX WHILE IMMIGRANTS GET £10,000 A YEAR IN HACKNEY!!!)

122. Chaise Guevara

“But there is an issue to address (and I don’t know how it can be resolved) in that folk can earn what seems to me to be a lot of money and still feel like they’re struggling… the main thing is housing costs it would appear. which is a whole big mess in itself”

Yep. Although the normal “I could live like a king on [my wage + 15%]” thing applies. Apparently money can only buy you happiness until you kit £25k or so, but we still think it’s the solution to all our problems. Weak-minded self included.

“and I hope you better-off people will stick up for us less fortunate when Osborne’s axe comes our way”

I hope so too, but he’s wielding it with horrible cleverness. Divide and rule and all that. As a hard-working taxpayer who’s being charged £1.03 a year more under the government’s new plans, why should I be expected to pay the food bill for starving orphans? They don’t even pay National Insurance, for God’s sake!

Nicola: “We live in an expensive area, we had to buy as living above a drug addict which isn’t the sort of thing I wanted my daughter around!”
The problem is that there are lots and lots of people who ARE forced to bring up children in places where there are drug addicts about. I’m not in financial difficulty myself, but I work in one of these areas – and numerous families living around here (mostly those on Housing Benefit) are facing savage cuts to their living standards. I hear on the grapevine that the inhabitants of all of the flats above the office (currently benefit lets) are going to be evicted when their benefits are cut back.

Hardly anyone seems to care about this. Indeed, some papers run stories every other day trying to convince me all these people upstairs are dangerous feckless Islamic chavs (or something along those lines) living high off the working taxpayer’s sweat and so I should be applauding them getting their come-uppance.

And suddenly the newspapers are full of heart-rending stories of middle-class mothers who simply cannot get by without child benefit. Why, they might not be able to send their youngest to a respectable school! The state schools around here – why, it doesn’t even bear thinking about. Have the politicians not thought of that? Now this is hurting DECENT people, do you hear?

I’m sorry, but if there are going to have to be cuts, cutting child benefit to people with incomes well above average is something I can live with. Do middle class families they deserve to see their income fall? No. But insulating families with that sort of income from the recession should be the least of our worries.

124. Planeshift

“£2,471.70 a month ”

About £1000 more than a median salary gets you. But you’ve inadvertantly identified the central issue – spending £1000 a month on your mortage. Much of this crises is down to house price/rent inflation and debt financed through the expectation of continued house price inflation. Reducing the cost of housing needs to be the economic priority over the next decade.

Jungle “I’m sorry, but if there are going to have to be cuts, cutting child benefit to people with incomes well above average is something I can live with”

Can I ask if this is going to affect you?

The cut WON’T affect me as jointly with my partner we are under 44k and thats with me working 2 jobs. We won’t be near one of us earning 44k for a very long time!

However, I completely disagree with cutting Child Benefit

Yes the cuts to families on benefits does seem harsh and for the people who don’t know how to work the system these cuts leave them in dire straits where they might be evicted. (not that I know of any of these stories)
Again you are correct that newspapers don’t publish these stories and only print families with approx 8 kids, massive council house and on 50k a year in benefits (ramdomly made up these figures) These stories do me mad and something should be done about them but I know not ALL families on benefits are like this.

I think there is many issues with housing (should the council be moving families next to known drug addicts who cause problems?) But that is not the issue here.

The fact is the Tories never mentioned they would cut Child Benefit during the election (I’m pretty sure thay said they wouldn’t) Would David Cameron be Prime Minister if this was mentioned during his election campaign?!

What happens to stay at home mums/dads pensions?If you received child benefit you were still making national insurance contributions towards your pension.

It might be only £20 a week but this is approx £900 a year per child!After all the other cuts and tax increasing this is a massive cut for families.

I know the countries debt has to be paid back and maybe cutting child benefit for high earners is a way to this, I don’t however think 44k is a high enough wage to be implementing this cut.

Many are under the misconception that CB is paid soley to ‘the mother’ and that it’s therefore sexist. Today, it is paid to the ‘main carer’ of the child, regardless of gender – this can be verified by the HMRC. It is, however, mostly claimed by women as women tend to be the ‘main carers’ still and therefore these cuts impact women most.
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/unfair-childbenefit-cuts/


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB

  2. Alison Gibbs

    RT @libcon: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB

  3. sunny hundal

    The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  4. sunny hundal

    @DanielFurrUK @chrisjw133 see this too: http://bit.ly/a0ooEB

  5. Chitra Nagarajan

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  6. Jenni Jackson

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  7. Coventry Rape Crisis

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  8. Eileen Allen

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  9. MindinFlux

    RT @libcon: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB

  10. Ashley Shiri

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  11. Rosie

    RT @libcon: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB

  12. Sarah Cartin

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  13. Dave Harris

    #NoShitSherlock RT @libcon The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB

  14. sianushka

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  15. Megan Price

    The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/HRtI9U3 via @libcon

  16. Denita Stevens

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  17. Hazico_Jo

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  18. Jini Mae

    RT @libcon: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB

  19. Emma

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  20. Raymond Keys

    @sherlockinasia Whaddyasay? “@Daveip1966: #NoShitSherlock RT @libcon The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB”

  21. Iman Qureshi

    My fav quote of the day: "we are not in some post-patriarchal post-feminist sodding nirvana"- @CathElliott http://bit.ly/ceYzDx

  22. Grey Murphy

    RT @jenni_jackson: RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  23. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women: George Osborne’s announcement today that from 2013 Chi… http://bit.ly/deujN3

  24. Simon Dickinson

    http://bit.ly/a0ooEB not sure what to say about this. Comments thread is even more amazing; OP says the govt are "women-hating misogynists"

  25. Natacha Kennedy

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  26. Maureen Czarnecki

    RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  27. Kate Joester

    @thefworduk But there's a lot in the way of linking to be done elsewhere: http://bit.ly/aZIuic http://bit.ly/axls8A

  28. Kerry Abel

    RT @sarahcartin: RT @sunny_hundal: The attack on Child Benefit is an attack on women http://bit.ly/a0ooEB says @CathElliott

  29. Mili

    Interesting argument on child benefit and gender equality. http://bit.ly/9Xn1fq

  30. SOCIALIST UNITY » OSBORNE'S VINDICTIVE ATTACK ON PARENTS

    [...] See also Harpy Marx and Cath Elliott [...]

  31. Chris Bramall

    RT @27dickie: http://bit.ly/a0ooEB not sure what to say about this. Comments thread is even more amazing; OP says the govt are "women-ha …

  32. Claire Spencer

    @IntravenusMP .@CathElliott wrote very well on it for @libcon: http://s.coop/41f





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