The Tories: Making Children Pay.

This post was prompted by Sue Marsh’s post about the Benefit Cap. You can read it here.

**Edited to add: Now, with new OMG!HOUSING!BENEFIT! section at the end of the post!!**

The new benefits cap states that no-one will be able to claim more than £26K per year in benefits. This figure is based on a couple, but it also states that it doesn’t matter how many children this couple have it will still remain at a cap of 26K. The reasoning behind the 26K figure is because the coalition say that this is an average household’s income. As Sue rightly pointed out in her blog entry:

“Of course it isn’t, because families bringing in 26k are likely to get a whole host of tax credits, child benefit and housing benefit too, but let’s not spoil a good bit of spin eh?”

This got me thinking, and two things (among MANY issues with this whole idea) stood out for me.

  1. That 26K would be the average household income for most households.
  2. That it doesn’t matter how many children you have, you still get 26K

So, to test both these theories I had to do a few calculations. I tell a lie, I hopped over to the awesome website turn2us.org.uk who are brilliant at telling you your benefit entitlement just by you plugging your details into their website. I came up with a partly-biographical-partly-hypothetical family and created a couple of scenarios.

**note: in both these scenarios I just plugged in my and my partner’s details for simplicity – dates of birth, local authority, social housing, rent, council tax etc. The only difference was I made us both non-disabled so I could take that out of the equation. I also gave us three school-aged (10,7 and 5) children, all born on Jan 1st. Birthdays seem to be an expensive time in my fictional household. I also assumed we had the “allowed” number of bedrooms in both cases to take out any Bedroom Tax complications**

Scenario 1 – Married couple with 3 children. Both partners work 37 hours a week at £6.75 an hour (just over minimum wage) bringing our joint income to £26,000 (the “average income” figure from the government). No other earnings/savings/capital.

Scenario 2Exactly the same as above, but with neither partner working. No income of any sort recorded in the calculation.

Scenario 1 results:

hb1 A benefit allowance of £7,822.88. Add that to the income of £26,000 and you get a total of £33,822.88.

Scenario 2 results:

hb2A benefit allowance of £23,992.28. Which is £9,830.60 lower than the first scenario.

So, what does all this mean, really? Is this realistic? Possibly not entirely – the earned income is GROSS income for a start, so there will be some tax and NI to pay which will take it down a bit. But I think we can safely say that Sue’s thought that earning 26K would still get you additional benefits on top is clearly correct. – it gets you nearly £8,000 a year on top of your £26K.

But, I think this hypothetical scenario raises some interesting questions. Firstly, is this morally right? The Tories are all about “making work pay” and there’s no denying that the working fictional family is definitely better off than the unemployed one. Is this a good thing? Does this mean that our fictional unemployed family should “get off the sofa and look for work?” Maybe. But, to me the really worrying thing is about the rest of this fictional family. Our three fictional children.

Having our three fictional children has earned our non-working family an extra lump of cash, that’s for certain. But, the cap for benefits is set at 26K no matter how many children you have. This smacks of the “well, if you can’t afford ’em, don’t have ’em!” attitude but that doesn’t account for a massive amount of societal problems that cause people to have children they may not be able to afford. The lack of aspirations among young women who can only see themselves having kids as a future. People who haven’t been educated enough in sexual health to take proper precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancy. The closure of sexual health clinics, youth projects, sexual health workers whose job it was to bring down the rate of unwanted pregnancy.

I believe that you should not punish children for the actions of their parents. This policy of the benefit caps does exactly that. It is unethical, it will push more children into poverty and it will punish children for the acts of their parents, and punish parents for not being able to access resources they need. The policy is a punishment, not an incentive, and only does more to push the vulnerable further into poverty. It needs to go.

**if you feel my calculations or my conclusions are wrong in any way or you feel I’ve misinterpreted something, please let me know in comments. I’m very interested to see what people think.**

EDITED TO ADD: THE OMG!HOUSING!BENEFIT! CLAUSE (because I’m going to have to point this out 30 times in the comments otherwise…)

“But, the people on benefits will get their rent paid for them while the other family won’t, so it’s not accurate!”

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Please see Exhibit A. It’s a part of the benefits breakdown from Scenario 2, our family on benefits. As you can see, by the big red ring I’ve drawn round it, Housing and Council Tax Benefits are INCLUDED in this family’s total amount of money for the year.That means that, just like the working family have to pay their £500 a month of rent from their total income of £33,822.88, the family on benefits have to pay their £500 a month rent from their total income of £23,922.28. I haven’t missed anything out, both have to pay the rent.

(Seriously guys, trust me on this one. Not only am I currently on Housing Benefit myself, I worked for 3 years for the local council in their housing department and spent 8 hours a day talking to people about their rent and housing benefit. Please believe me when I say I know how Housing Benefit works!!)

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28 Comments on “The Tories: Making Children Pay.”

  1. Big Bill says:

    You might like to take a peek at this https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/173158/response/424575/attach/html/2/FoI%203885.response.pdf.html “Ministers have never claimed that people out of work are likely to receive a greater income
    from benefits than the total income received by somebody in comparable circumstances and in full-time work.” Well, this is not the impression I had.

  2. Kim Holly says:

    I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. It’s the same old story of the Tories trying and succeeding to crucify the poorest in society. There is a petition on facebook which asks people to sign regarding a vote of no confidence in the Government. I have shared this link on my facebook page and if anyone really wants rid of these monsters, I suggest they sign it.

    • Joanna says:

      is the petition available anywhere else, as I refuse to use facebook due to deep paranoia and I don’t feel safe on it.

  3. Russ says:

    I may have missed it but would the working family not have to pay a small fortune in childcare, after paying that plus tax and NI then there is a possibility that they could be slightly worse off than the non-working family

    • Carolyne Doran says:

      I think that to make the calculation as close as possible, she has not taken childcare into consideration, which is fair enough. However, I agree about the Tax and NI situation. Plus, of course, the working couple will be paying their rent/mortgage and Council Tax, which the non-working couple are getting help towards.

      • Emsy says:

        But if I took the rent and council tax off the total for the working couple I’d have to take the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit off the total for the unemployed couple. They’re both paying rent, but the money comes from different places. It’s important to remember that (until UC comes in) claimants don’t actually receive the HB payment themselves, it goes straight to the landlord.

      • Rachel says:

        Yes but childcare in turn is heavily subsidised through tax credits and of course at age 3 you start to get the 15 free hours and then more when they start school. And it’s possible that there are no childcare costs at all if the parents can use friends or family, possibly under reciprocal arrangements, or shift patterns reduce the requirement. Very difficult to calculate.

        I don’t know what the cut-off is for HB/LHA but working doesn’t preclude claiming those as they are means tested rather than out of work benefits.

  4. Boz says:

    Dont worry guys, Rachel Reeves has been busy today highlighting what the Labour Party are going to do …. the same as the Tories but worse!!!

  5. Mike Sivier says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    None of the ideas here are original; Vox Political has been pointing them out since before the benefit cap was introduced.
    HOWEVER, that does not stop what’s happening from being wrong. It was wrong back then; it’s wrong now. Read and remember.

    • Sue McCafferty says:

      Agree Mike, not sure why this is being discussed as though it’s a new policy when it was part of the Welfare Reform Act and has already made single parents in London homeless. Many bloggers, including yourself made the point that £26,000 is not the ‘average’ income and the policy was dissected in the usual manner last year. It only really impacts upon the housing benefit part of a claimants entitlement and many campaigners have been focussed on disability benefits and WCA so maybe that’s why it’s gone under the radar. Very odd!!

  6. sdbast says:

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  7. Carolyne Doran says:

    Surely the working couple will be paying Tax and National Insurance, thereby decreasing their income considerably. Also, the point of the Tories’ plan is to “make work pay”, so of course a working family would get more money than the non-working family. I don’t agree with taking money away from severely disabled people, and there should be some dispensation for those who are made redundant, but for families already on benefits who are choosing to have children *whilst they are on benefits*, sorry, of course they shouldn’t have children if they can’t afford them.

    • Emsy says:

      I addressed a lot of this in the entry, but whether you agree with them having children or not, they are still having the children. And I firmly believe that the child should not be punished for the situation it was born into. I talked about the need for better prevention of unwanted pregnancies and education for people so they can make positive choices (both of which the government continues to get rid of) but at the moment, making sure the families don’t get into poverty and the children have a good quality of life is the cheapest way to do it. You can disagree with people having kids they can’t afford until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t stop it happening.

    • cheryl says:

      Don’t you realise that we are made to populate that’s why we are of two sees male and female male and female are supposed to mate and produce offspring no on has any right to say how many offspring we can have or afford it don’t boil down to money if women stop having children then the human race is in for distinction. If strain people stopped trying to play god and left the cloning etc alone. Things have got way out of hand there will never be and elite human I think some people forget we are all animals of the mammal side but we are the ones with brain power, that’s a laugh the animals of the world are more civilised than the human and they know how to look after their offspring better than any human

  8. bookmanwales says:

    Income tax for those working would be around £1400 for both of them with a similar amount for NI (2013 rates)
    So still about £6k better off excluding childcare.
    The point about children however is a valid point. It is not the childen’s fault they are born and they should not be punished for lack of parental birth control.
    The fact remains though that in work benefits cost the country more than out of work benefits when you include working tax credits, housing and CT benefits which even working people on low incomes can claim.

  9. beastrabban says:

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog.

  10. Paul Hayward says:

    It would help if all critics of the Coalition benefit plans and thus advocates of a steadily rising social costs network would stop referring to BENEFIT ENTITLEMENT… when the system was designed by Labour, it was a safety net, a scheme to prevent anyone slipping into Poverty. If you are already on benefits, and thus receiving a lower income than a couple who are both working, you are not ENTITLED to anything if you decide ( against the economic data / facts ) to have more children than your income will support… that is basic economics, i fear.

    The coalition is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and is missing the point entirely on benefit reform… But, campaingners need to open their eyes and realise that something must be done…and that means education and some harsh lessons for all… I work, my wife works, and we have never received any benefit ( other than CB ) for our two girls… I believe that society must protect the needy, the vulnerable and those in dire straits, but not the feckless, the conniving and those who see a life on benefit as their entitlement… that has got to stop!

    • Emsy says:

      Unfortunately the Coalition is busy removing all those education and support means that were designed to help. I had loads of mates who were youth workers working in deprived areas, and whose job it was to help the kids realise there was more to their futures than just getting a council flat and going on benefits. Those mates have now all lost their jobs because of the cuts. The government points the finger at the poor with one hand, while taking away the means of getting out of that situation with the other.

      And again, I say that you can finger-point all you want at people on benefits having loads of kids and how terrible it is, it won’t stop it from happening. And society needs to make sure those kids don’t grow up to repeat their parent’s mistake. The children should not be punished for the actions of their parents.

      • Sue McCafferty says:

        As I’ve posted on here, and as has Mike, this is not a new policy and it’s very strange that some people have presented it as such. This was part of the Welfare Reform Act and has been operational since April last year with predictably dire consequences for single parents in London. It mainly affects the housing benefit entitlement and penalises those in high rent areas; social cleansing by other means. The latest statistics on numbers affected can be found on the Government website. Many bloggers, researchers and journalists pointed out the issues relating to this policy as early as 2012. It’s more than a bit worrying that something that has already seen women and children made homeless is only now registering on some people’s radar.

  11. Martha Tulip says:

    Hey, don’t worry, IDS is calling in the help of GPs and nurses to stop the breakdown of families – way to go for the madman of the DWP

  12. Rachel says:

    But to correct the assumption that housing benefits are always paid to the LL if the claimant is out of work, that’s not the case any more, certainly with LHA. Councils must pay it to the LL if you’re 8 weeks or more in arrears but otherwise the general rule is that it gets paid to the claimant.

  13. Sharon says:

    That’s a stupid article as the working couple who get more over all are paying rent and council tax in FULL which could be £9000 a year or more but the benifits couple get it paid for them (plus healthy start free baby milk free NHS free school dinners which could equal another £5000 a year) so infact the couple working are far worse off

    • Emsy says:

      As I said before (and I’m even going to add it to the post because so many people keep making this mistake) the final total for the family on benefits INCLUDES their Housing and Council Tax benefit, so they also will have to use their money to pay their housing and council tax in full. It’s INCLUDED in that amount.

  14. […] £20,000. Twenty thousand. The amount of money a family outside London is expected to live on. (Here’s a previous blog post about how that pans out) […]


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