In the UK, a parent with a child under 16 or still in school, is entitled to child benefit, £20.30 for the eldest child and £13.40 for each other child a week. The last Labour government increased this amount above inflation. The current government has frozen it.
The government proposes to withdraw entitlement to child benefit if a parent or step-parent pays the 40% top rate of income tax. This is unfair: where one partner works, and earns £45,000, there is no entitlement, but where both partners work and each earns £40,000 a year they are entitled. However, it has the advantage of being comparatively easy to administer and check, and perhaps there is less concern about fairness to high earners, even if the single earner households that Conservative supporters so admire suffer.
But the health and social security system gains support because we all pay in, and we all take out of it. We all can use the health service, and we all get the state retirement pension. “We are all in it together”, as Mr Cameron says. Child benefit is the most universal of benefits. It gives the wealthy- top 20% of the British public- a stake in the system as a whole. Restricting their access to child benefit turns a universal system into a charitable system. And children are a source of hope in the future for the whole community, not just their parents.
In 2010, a parent with a household income below £55,000 a year would also be entitled to some child tax credit, probably £10.40 a week. Now that figure is £40,000, and soon it will be below £20,000 for most households, because of cuts in entitlement. That is a backwards step for a different reason. Paying some tax credit to most parents meant that parents could realise it would be worth claiming. That increases take up. Otherwise, people who would be entitled do not claim because they are not sure they are entitled, and so the benefit does not reach its intended recipients.
“The intolerable wrestle with words and meanings”- Eliot had it much harder than I have, but then I am simply trying things out, practising writing rather than seeking to express Reality in a wholly new way. There we have it, three hundred words on child benefit, a rather dryer topic than I normally address here, a bit of fact, a bit of opinion. In what order should it go? The aside about tax credit in the first paragraph grew until I had to shift it to a new topic in another paragraph at the end. And people read this stuff, and comment. Does it jar if I repeat a word? Can the expression be more elegant, or more beautiful? I read a complaint in a magazine about meaninglessly using the word “So” at the start of sentences, and I notice it in myself. I am enjoying writing, and think it worth my while practising, and seeking an audience.