The coalition’s anti-poverty czar, Frank Field (a Labour MP), has suggested that “Child benefit and child tax credits would be frozen and the money switched to improving the life chances of disadvantaged children before they start school, under plans being considered by the Government.” According to the Independent.
Since the function of child benefit and tax credits is to boost the income, and thus, notionally, at least, the quality of life, of poorer families, in what possible way can freezing it and switching the funds to another cause be considered “anti-poverty”?
Field suggests it’s “…improving public services and breaking the cycle to “prevent poor children from becoming poor adults”.” Call me Mr. Picky, but isn’t child benefit supposed to play a part in that? He goes on to suggest that a further “… £37bn a year would have to be spent on tax credits to cut child poverty to 5 per cent of all children.”**
And where, might one enquire, is that coming from? I’d have no objection were this to be funded with new money, rather than frozen child benefit, and reductions in disability benefits too, but as it stands, the idea sucks. Seriously. Is £37bn for 5% of children actually cost-effective, and how much of the money will be soaked up by additional layers of bureaucracy?
At a time when the incomes of chronically sick and disabled adults are under serious threat, as well as the imposition of increased housing costs to be paid from that diminished income because, apparently, this benighted country can’t afford us (council funds that used to be ring-fenced for the support of the disabled and the old soon won’t be), Field happily wants to spend the income from frozen CB, plus an additional £37bn, supporting people at the start of their lives with proposals like this:-
“A new set of “life chance indicators” would measure children’s cognitive, physical and emotional development at the ages of three and five. Eventually, they would also be measured at 10 and when they leave secondary school.”
I’d have thought kids were subject to enough hassle during that period, with frequent claims that they are already subjected to too many examinations at school – how is subjecting them to this, as well, going to improve matters?
And, just as a matter of interest, other than providing a new set of statistics, would any of that actually benefit the kids?
And if so, how? And how much will that cost? And if we – allegedly – can’t afford disability benefits, how can we afford Field’s £37billion? How can we spend money we haven’t got, you might well ask. Well, the same way we can offer £7bn or so to Ireland – because we have been consistently lied to about what is affordable. I can come to no other conclusion. That or we’re spending money we don’t actually have.
And if the Poverty Czar has so much time on his hands, perhaps he’d care to consider what’s going to happen to the chronically sick and disabled when the cuts kick in, not to mention the unemployed (among whose number there will inevitably be many people who are too disabled/sick to work, but have been shafted by the ESA application process).
But don’t hold your breath . . .
**For the record, poor children don’t automatically make poor adults. I was born into the slums of Manchester at the end of WW2, where poverty was, for many, an aspiration (and no, that’s not a cheap joke). I rose above that, as have many thousands, possibly millions, of others.
How you start out in life is not an indicator of how you will wind up – a lot depends on the individual and what they make of their lives, and Field’s touchy-feely bullshit won’t change that.