Calls to Raise Child Benefit in the UK
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has urged the government to make a significant increase to child benefit payments.
The call comes after research discovered that a growing number of households are using child benefit to cover general expenses such as household bills.
CPAG says that in real terms, child benefit today is worth 23% less than it was a decade ago. The charity explains that the extra help will be crucial as parents get ready to send their kids back to school.
At present, families that are eligible receive £21.05 weekly for a first child, and £13.95 for additional children. The benefit is offset against tax for those earning between £50,000 and £60,000 annually, whilst those earning over £60,000 do not receive the benefit.
The charity has appealed to the government to increase child benefit by £10 a week, adding that ministers are yet to offer any particular support to families that are finding it hard to cope during the current pandemic.
The survey commissioned by the charity covered 1055 parents in the UK who received the benefit over the summer. It found that 28% of respondents used the benefit to cover general expenses. This is in contrast to just 2% who admitted to doing this in a similar survey back in 2012.
Alison Garnham, CPAG’s chief executive, said that the return to school next week would have many parents “worrying about whether they’ve got enough money to meet their children’s needs as they face an exceptionally expensive post-lockdown return to school.
“In the period ahead, as the coronavirus recession takes hold, we are likely to see many more families falling into hardship and many more parents struggling to stop their children from slipping into poverty,” she added.
“Yet there was nothing in the government’s economic response to the pandemic that offered ongoing targeted financial support for children.
“For almost 50 years, child benefit has been there for children as a minimum protection against poverty but its value has been eroded and as our survey shows, hard-pressed parents are increasingly having to spend it on general household essentials. That isn’t right.
“As a nation we invest in the state pension to support everyone in retirement, we should be investing just as much in child benefit to support all families with the extra costs of children. Re-investing in child benefit is the least we can do to shore up children’s life chances in these uncertain times.”
A spokesperson for the government said: “We are wholly committed to supporting the lowest-paid families in our country and have taken significant steps to support those on low incomes throughout this pandemic.
“We have invested over £9.3bn more support through the welfare system, in addition to raising the living wage, ending the benefit freeze and increasing work incentives. We keep all policies under constant review.”