In August 2015, there was considerable outrage when the government announced it would be limiting the distribution of state benefits to those with more than three children. Now in 2018, the benefit cap has now been reduced to no more than two children.
In April of this year, ‘Sixty Church of England Bishops’ wrote to the government in a plea to remove the two child benefit cap, claiming that it ‘just isn’t right.’ The government has come under fire after stating that;
‘parents on benefits must face the same financial choices as parents in employment.’
The policy, which came into effect last year, limits benefits to the first two children. The concern is that the law will be amended further to only accommodate a singular child, with a view to capping benefits altogether. Since my own initial claim in 2014, my benefits have been reduced from £561 to £447 a month for two children.
‘A year in, the government should reconsider this policy before more families are pulled below the poverty line.’ -Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group
The government is not taking into consideration individual circumstances, nor the financial plight of single parents with more than one child. There is an outcry for single parents to ‘go back to work’, however the current economic climate makes this almost impossible. With childcare funding denied for those on zero hour contracts, or working under 16 hours a week, a lot of single parents are ‘better off’ on benefits. Now parents with more than two children will be impoverished further with the new limitations. With a system that barely allowed them to maintain a decent standard of living that has been slashed, how can we expect a constructive route back to employment? Not to mention the curveballs of illness, death and mental health afflictions that may render a parent temporarily unemployed.
The promise to eradicate zero hour contracts has proven abysmal, with more than ‘100,000 zero-hour contract increase in 2017’ according to ONS. This gives single parents little option but to remain on benefits until a more secure promise of work that allows for government childcare funding. It’s the choice between poverty and poverty. There is little room for social mobilisation or valuable contribution to society. The tabloids would have you think that ‘scrounging’ single parents are living a ‘life of luxury’, but this is far from the reality. It only serves to feed the damaging rhetoric of single parents.
According to a report by the End Child Poverty Coalition, says that,
‘Some 160,000 families with new-born babies are already up to £2780 worse off than if their youngest child had been born in the previous year.’
If the families are worse off, then how do single parents fare? This is the £2780 question.
Despite the cap having significant impact on the living standards of single parents, there is also a moral concern. Mothers are now choosing to abort ‘wanted’ children, as they know they can not afford to care for them. The circumstances of each single parent are unique and this cap makes the blanket assumption that all parents were either already on state benefits or out of work at the time of pregnancy. Many pregnancies begin with two parents in the household, earning a wage. Due to relationship breakdown or even bereavement, the situation often changes, where a mother or father is left alone without income and has no choice but to apply for benefits. Applying a rigid sanction based on the notion that ‘Parents on benefits must face the same choices as those in employment’ does not hold weight to a condition that is fluid.
The policy suggests that the first two children are more important than the children that follow, causing a limit on opportunities for every child involved, as the money will have to be spread more thinly. With reports of parents ‘fainting’ in schools due to lack of nourishment and parents in professional jobs such as teachers and nurses using food banks, there is little hope for those on minimum wage and state benefits.
How does the future look for Britain? With 1 in 4 parents caring for children alone, and caps on income that leave little incentive for work-the future is indeed looking bleak.
In a nation where parents have to make an impossible choice regarding their children, and abortions being used as a means to save money, let’s hope that none of us falls pregnant with triplets.