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COMMENT DEBATE

Is it fair to 'cap' child-related benefits at two children?

Claire Perry
Conservative MP for Devizes

 

I think Iain Duncan Smith was talking about the overall benefits package, not just child benefit. Child benefit is already being restructured and it’s not going to be paid to the richest 15 percent of families in the country.

The average income in my constituency is £25,000 and I don’t think it’s fair to tax those people to pay child benefit for MPs like myself. However, on child-related benefits, I think it’s about a question of fairness.

I don’t think it’s fair that the decisions families on benefits make are different from the decisions people in work make. Many people think very hard about the cost of bringing up a child, the cost of moving house, etc.

What Iain Duncan Smith is saying is people on bene ts should be making those same sorts of decisions – they should think in that way. I think it’s fair and reasonable. I would want to see the transitional arrangements because you wouldn’t want to see families who already had three or four children to suddenly lose it, you’d want to be providing a very strong signal going forward.

It’s fair people on bene ts have to think the same way as people who work – we want people on bene ts to move into work; not to be on bene ts for a lifetime.

Iain Duncan Smith is 100 percent committed to resolving the very tough problems we face from having an incredibly complex and badly structured welfare system.

» Claire Perry was talking on Question Time

 

Alison Garnham
Chief Executive
Child Poverty Action Group

 

Iain Duncan Smith’s proposed two-child policy is built on the shaky foundations of myths and assumptions. It may win votes, but as a social policy it will be ineffective in its stated aims and detrimental to child wellbeing.

Mr Duncan Smith claims people in work have a harder choice about having children than those out of work who know they will get extra bene ts. But child benefit is universal, whilst means-tested benefits ensure that those in work get extra help for their family if they need it. Only in rare cases will parents be better off out of work; and this will usually be a direct consequence of the Coalition’s cuts to working tax credits.

He claims that large families cluster at the bottom end of the income spectrum. There’s no evidence in official data on families that it’s an issue beyond a very small number of outliers. Only a third of claimants of unemployment benefits have children, and only around eight percent have more than two.

It’s right to be concerned about Britain’s relatively low parental employment rate and the need to keep the national benefits bill at a sensible and sustainable level. But a two-child policy will do nothing for either concern.

We have 2.5 million unemployed people and at least as many again who are underemployed, unable to get the full hours of work they want. The limiting factors are not a lack of responsibility and aspiration, but lack of jobs and the affordable childcare that allows parents to access work.