Means-tested Child Benefit? You’re picking the wrong fight.

8 Jan

By Catherine Brockhurst

Before I launch into this post headfirst, please let me caveat what I am about to say;

  • I am not an expert in the benefits system, nor government public and social expenditure
  • I am not poor, nor am I destitute or about to be thrown into a horrendous spiral of poverty by the proposed and ongoing changes
  • I am not going to back up my assertions with a raft of stats.

Child Benefit and Winter Fuel Allowance should not be means tested. That’s it, no ifs ands or maybes. Want to know why? It does no good to anyone who actually receives these benefits. If you’re poor- i.e. you struggle to feed your family, clothe your kids, keep your home warm, would never be able to run a car, probably don’t have any luxuries like mobile phones, holidays (or any other thing that the Daily Mail derides you for having if you’re poor)-then you need Child Benefit. If you’re not poor, you don’t need Child Benefit, but many on the periphery of struggling to make ends meet rely on it.

If you’re not in the first two camps and wealthy, then OK, you might spend it on frivolous things like spa treatments, fox furs and fancy cigars (again, thanks Daily Mail). These things the people who don’t need Child Benefit and Winter Fuel Allowance payouts spend their money on are taxed. The money goes straight back in to the economy.

And here’s the crux of it;

There are way more people in this country who need these benefits than don’t. There are substantially more poor than wealthy people in this country.

Means testing these universal benefits is a logistical and administratively expensive nightmare and I want us all to be under no illusion, the money ‘saved’ by not paying out Child Benefit and Winter Fuel Allowance will not be ploughed back into the pot of money set aside with a big sign on it saying ‘For the poor and needy. It is just another number on a balance sheet to this government, where those in need get squeezed and those who are not don’t. We’ve all seen the nonsense in the limits for individuals vs. couples on the Child Benefit restrictions structure. It’s like a woefully mis-informed child came up with the idea. No wait, it’s like someone with no social conscience came up with it…Ah, wait, hang on a sec… Sorry if I sound sarcastic and angry. It’s because I am. Very.

I said I’d not provide a raft of stats, so just 1. In 2012 the entire welfare bill, including family and children, unemployment, housing, social exclusion, protection and other vital services made up 12% of the entire government expenditure. Given that people are all this country actually has it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that my tax pennies should go towards helping and supporting them. All of them.

Yet again, this government who we did not vote in, have hammered another nail in the coffin that is social welfare and yet again, we’re all arguing about who does and does not deserve to get their meagre hand outs. They knew we would, they knew these decisions would create infighting. It just serves to draw our eyes away from the genuine tragedies of a chopped up health service,  reduced family support services, reduced income support and housing benefit, increased student fees, massively reduced disability allowance, reduced rape advisory services. The list goes on and on, as long as your arm. And then the next person’s arm too.

Please step away from the smoking gun that is means tested Child Benefit and Winter Fuel Allowance, your argument is not with those earning £50k or more a year. It’s with those who are tricking you into thinking everyone has it better than you and has grabbed your cash. They haven’t, we’re all just trying to manage the best way we can while the rug gets pulled out from under us, just like you. So many of us, just like you.

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