“It seems to me quite barbaric that the Government should be considering reducing child benefit for larger families.
Under a proposal put forward by the think tank Policy Exchange, child benefit would be cut after the third child, and all state payments limited to four children. This, the think tank claims, would save £ 1 billion over five years. It would also contribute to the Government’s plan of cutting £ 12 billion from the welfare budget by 2020.
Larger families would see their benefits gradually reduced; and it would, in effect, ‘cap’ the number of children parents might have.
Regrettably, there is considerable public support for this measure: 83 per cent of Tory voters, and more than half of Labour and Lib Dem voters appear to agree that larger families should be deprived of child benefit.
But then the British public tends to be remarkably budget-minded when it comes to considering ethical issues. I once participated in a radio debate about the death penalty, and the majority of callers were overwhelmingly in favour – ‘because it would save money’!
We need to do something to reverse the growing prejudice against large families, who are often seen as ‘welfare scroungers’, rather than people deserving of support. And maybe the long-term, practical argument is the best one in this context: in an ageing society, large families are serving the future, not taking away from the present. Who will pay society’s pensions in times to come? The children born today.
Yes, it is sensible to suggest parents act responsibly in raising their kids and to provide for them as best as they can. But all families need social support, and that’s a message we ignore at our peril.”
– This article by Mary Kenny was published in “The Catholic Herald” newspaper, issue July 25 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).