The shaky maths of child benefit cuts

I’ve written in previous posts (Teaching the language love, Sharing the language love (1) and Sharing the language love (2) – Careers Days) about language learning, which I believe is a vital part of any school curriculum (primary or secondary level).

I also believe that maths and the sciences – and any other subject that captures young people’s interest and helps them develop as human beings and find fulfilling employment – should be promoted and encouraged.

I’m now thinking, however, that here in the UK we should be placing a special emphasis on maths. Especially for those poor kids attending “public” schools, who – judging from the performance of the adult generation now in government – seem to be falling seriously short in basic numeracy skills.

Our new government intends to eliminate child benefit for any household where one parent earns more than £44,000, with effect from 2013. (For the sake of argument, I’m interpreting a household as a married couple (still living together), with children). So, under the government’s (what I hope are still reversible) proposals, we’d have a situation where:

  • A household with two working parents each earning £22,000 (total £44,000) would continue to receive child benefit.
  • A household with two working parents each earning £43,900 (total £87,800) would continue to receive child benefit.
  • A household with one non-working parent and one working parent earning £44,000 would not receive child benefit.

Child benefit, I believe, goes directly to the mother. Some households have violent or abusive fathers who withhold money from their wives, and consequently from their children. Some of these violent and abusive fathers are in the high-earning bracket. I realise that many violent, abusive fathers are themselves victims. They need help. But in the meantime, so do their wives and children.

For these families, child benefit is a small, fragile but vital lifeline for both mothers and children. It’s intended to protect potentially vulnerable members of society and embodies a universal welfare principle that Britain should treasure and be proud of.

I don’t think the new government’s maths adds up. I see an easy target, and a large dose of ideology. But sound maths? I don’t think so.

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. I totally agree with the idea behind this cut. Child benefit should not be a universal benefit. If you’re earning £100k, you certainly don’t need child benefit. I’d far rather that money went to someone who needed it.

    However, I agree with you that the maths isn’t right. Far more should be done to analyse the actual amount of money available for the care of the child (so the child’s living situation, the combined income of whatever guardians they live with, what support is paid by the other parent if they live apart etc.). As it is, like you demonstrated, the figures don’t add up.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Fern. I take your point about very high earners not needing to receive certain benefits.
      But in this case, as you noted, the figures really don’t add up, so the cuts are going to be illogical and unfair. And I do feel very strongly about the role of child benefit in protecting mothers and children, of whatever income level.

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