UNITED KINGDOM: by John BallantyneNews Weekly
Britain's Tories axe universal Child Benefit
, October 30, 2010
Traditional families have become the first casualties of Britain's Conservative-led Coalition Government's recent austerity drive.
Earlier this month, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the axing of universal Child Benefits, which British families have enjoyed since World War II.
The benefit, usually paid directly to the mother, either in cash at the Post Office or into her account, amounts to UK£40.60 (AUD$65.00) a fortnight for the first child and UK£27.00 (AUD$43.20) a fortnight for each subsequent child.
This benefit will no longer be paid to those earning more than UK£43,000 (AUD$68,800) a year.
Many family activists have attacked the policy because it favours families enjoying two full-time incomes and unfairly penalises two-parent families struggling to make ends meet on a single income.
For instance, a couple jointly earning, say, UK£80,000 will continue to qualify for Child Benefit. However, a couple on a single income of UK£43,000, with the mother at home raising children, will disqualify.
Treasury economists in both Britain and Australia tend to overlook the indispensable services that families provide to society, because unpaid household work is not recorded in the national accounts; only work done in exchange for payment is.
British political and social commentator Melanie Phillips has denounced what she calls "the conspicuous unfairness" of Britain's new restrictions on Child Benefit. She says: "The effect of this change will be to further impoverish those who are bringing up children in traditional families, while continuing to pay for yet more increases in lone parenthood and mass fatherlessness."
She blames the UK Treasury for its "near-autistic inability … to connect with anything beyond a balance sheet".
Australian Liberal Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who earlier this month visited Birmingham to attend the British Conservative Party's annual conference, has spoken approvingly of Britain's radical overhaul of benefits and said he believes that Australia's next Coalition government should aim to do something similar.
What exactly Mr Abbott has in mind is not clear.
He came within an ace of winning the Coalition the last election, and could have succeeded had he not saddled himself with his divisive paid parental leave (PPL) policy which, like Britain's axing of Child Benefit, will favour families on two full-time incomes but discriminate heavily against families where the spouse cares full-time for the children.