Workshy Scrounger

Tag: Child benefit

Breaking news: babies cost a lot

I wrote before about the true cost of having a baby when we, the scroungers, were accused of popping them out just for the sake of extra money from the government. Mind that I wrote it without the benefit of ever having a child, even being close friends with someone who has a child or actually planning to have one. Therefore, the recent report from Aviva and Santander was puzzling:

Such is the extent of the monthly outlay on children that one in 20 parents say they would not have had a child in the first place if they were aware of the true cost of raising them.

The 0.05% might not seem like a lot but it means that just last year over 40,000 babies were born through sheer ignorance of their parents. Perhaps family clinics should start promoting arithmetic skills along with the awareness of contraceptive methods.

They go on to say that £537 is spent on a child every month. That already includes (to some extent) reliance on hand-me-downs, charity shops and accepting help from family members.

We would receive £357 a month in child tax credits and child benefits. That would leave us £180 short every month. No amount of second-hand items and family goodwill is going to cover such a shortfall day-in day-out for the next 16 or so years.

Unfortunately we are not the sky subscribing, cider drinking mythical creatures who can have it all while living on benefits. As all our expenditure is scaled down past the minimum, we would go hungry (very often). We would have to rely on our non-existent food bank (for the joy of free food, obviously). IDS will be happy to hear we will not be having a child partly due to our financial circumstances. Even if by some miracle I will be able to work again, we will still not take the chance because redundancies and ill-health happen. It happened once to us and it could happen again.

At the same time, the government and the tabloids are trying to say you are actually in profit if you have children while on benefits. Forget money education at schools, we should start with the politicians.

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Let’s have a baby then

I am not going to stoop to the level of George Osbourne who blames what Philpott did to his children on the broadly defined benefits culture. It’s just another publicity stunt designed to get the Daily Mail readers on his side.

What worried me more was a quote in the Guardian:

David Davis, the leading Conservative rightwing MP, said it was unwise to build a policy on a single case, but claimed that as many as one or two in 100 parents were having an extra child due to the prospect of child benefit.

People tend to decide to have a baby for a number of reasons, most of them bad, illogical or simply daft. There will always be the minority who decides to have a child for benefits. Or to save a broken marriage. Or because grandparents want someone to spoil. Or to have someone to love them forever. Or because everybody else is having a baby so why don’t we do it, too.

I didn’t know that but a child would net us £20.3 every week in child benefit and another £62.09 in tax credits. However, anyone can see that the additional £82.39 would not pay for the child’s upkeep. Even if we disregard the initial costs, not only big ones like a pram or a cot but also the small ones like changing mat and bottles, the sums still do not add up. Our energy bill would go through the roof as you need to keep your house warm all the time (I doubt any baby would thrive in our 14-degree home) and having the washing machine on all the time is not cheap. You need to keep buying clothes and nappies and shoes and toys. You need to make much more effort with food – a cheesy toast wouldn’t quite do. There’s only so much friends and family could help us out with. So, yeah, part of the reason we are not having a baby is because we cannot afford it – just like the “normal” families. What a surprise!

I got used to being called a workshy scrounger, scum, skiver and what not. However, automatically labelling a benefit claimant a bad parent only because they happen to have children is a step too far. How many children are actually born to parents who were jobless before, during and after the pregnancy? Is it not the case, in most instances, that one decides to have children when all is well and when the bad times come the wee ones still have to be taken care of? Of course, the Tories don’t bother with statistics (eg those referring to benefit fraud) unless they serve their own purposes. So here’s your answer.

Suggesting that benefit claimants are having children for the sake of additional benefits is tantamount to saying that we only get married for money. It is offensive and unnecessary. Historically, more children were always born to poor families (benefits or no benefits). Considering the UK’s low social mobility levels, if only wealthy Victorian’s bred, there would be nobody left to do any actual work now.

As any teenager will tell you: children do not ask to be born. Once the children are here, they have to be taken care of by somebody. If the parents are unable to do it, the state should help out. Child benefit and child-tax credit still save the state a lot of money – having to create children’s homes for all the kids whose parents cannot “afford” them would cost much more. Unless we reintroduce workhouses – that worked well for the rich.

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