An open letter to well, everyone:
Unaccustomed as I, and the UK’s other 1.9 million lone parents are – no really, we are unaccustomed to having so many positive things said about us by politicians, journalists and commentators. Normally, we are trotted out as your favourite demons for all our ills in relation to unruly children, poor educational attainment, crime etc. So it is a little bemusing to hear so many of you suddenly concerned for us and our children’s welfare. Allow me then, as a token lone parent, to challenge a few of the myths being spun in this rammy:
- pity the poor lone parent – a widow even – earning £45,000 per year who will lose her child benefit while a two parent family earning £80,000 will get to keep theirs
I’m sorry but who is this mythical creature? Do you know her? You see, most lone parents I know don’t earn anything like this much. In fact, most are poor. Half of all children in our families are poor compared to a quarter of children in two parent families. Of those lone parents who work, 29% who work part time are poor and just over a fifth who work full time are poor. The median weekly income for working single parent families is £404.52 or £21,035.04 per year. Incidentally, the median income for a two parent family with one worker is £618.44 (£32,158.88 annually). There may well be some lone parents caught by this change but they are few and far between. This is a spurious argument being deployed to justify the continuation of payment of a universal benefit to people who can afford to do without it. Kindly desist. (all statistics are from Households below average income: an analysis of of the income distribution 1994/5 – 2008/09, DWP 2010)
- this is the first time child benefit has been changed
Actually it’s not. The last change was a wee while ago now and many of you won’t remember. But I do, and in fact, I blogged about it earlier this week. Not convenient I know for Labour MPs and commentators now you’re in opposition but you have form here. Be assured: that change to child benefit hurt many more lone parents for a lot longer than this one will.
- the Conservatives have got this very wrong
Actually the Conservatives might just have a point. So far, an awful lot of pain in terms of welfare and tax changes has been aimed at lower income families, and no doubt there is more to come. The Institute of Fiscal Studies’ analysis made this clear and again, I blogged about it. Frankly, it’s about time the better off took a hit. And no, I don’t feel entirely comfortable with finding myself in agreement with George Osborne.
- can we really afford to maintain universality in our benefits system?
I would always opt for universality over means testing but frankly, it might just be a luxury we can no longer afford. That’s why the press release on this issue from Gingerbread puzzled me. Yes, the charity exists to provide support to all lone parents but who is its main constituency? Low income lone parent families. Has the organisation fully thought through its opposition to this change and what the alternative might be? Imagine if the Conservatives back down on this change but instead propose to remove child benefit, say for, second and subsequent children? Child benefit would still be universal, just much more limited in scope. How many low income lone parent families would be hurt by that? Exactly. Would you all be jumping up and down with the same indignation as on this change? I wonder.
- the re-introduction of a married couples allowance might help offset some of the pain
You don’t really need me to explain why this won’t help lone parents, do you?
a mightily fed up lone parent who wishes you would all just have the honesty to admit that the sort of families most likely to be hurt by this change are your own