The end of universal child benefit

I’m finally getting around to ranting about a subject that has been a sore spot for me as of late.

My husband is lucky hardworking enough to be earning over £60,000 a year. Barely. So we fall into the category of people who are now not entitled to child benefit. I work from home writing on a freelance basis and run my own website but my earnings are paltry. Seriously paltry. They barely cover the fees for my youngest to go to nursery 2 mornings a week. But I claimed the child benefit for our two children, about £135 a month and that made a massive difference to my income. But now I lose it – because my husband earns too much money.

To say I am aggrieved is an understatement. Many people I know are staggered to learn that my husband earns ‘so much’ money. We bought our very modest house, in not the best area of town for £123k in 2007. One of the cheapest houses in the UK I’d wager, way below national average for sure. Also, it was in 2007 which was the best time to buy. Not. We got a 100% mortgage as we could not afford a deposit. Needless to say our mortgage payments are high and now of course we cannot move as house prices have dropped so much. We shop in Aldi, don’t take holidays abroad, we save the Sun vouchers for £9.50 holidays, we have one car between us and budget our money to the last penny. We pay hundreds of pounds each month off student loans (which enabled my husband to get the job he has). And no, we don’t have any spare cash.

Granted, we are not poor, we own our own house (well the bank does), we have a car and we have enough money to eat and heat the house. But really, are we in the top 15% of earners in the country? I doubt it. Last year we lost our child tax credit, this year our child benefit. All the while my neighbours (we live in not the best area remember) scrounge off the state, don’t work and reap the benefits of our hard work. Seriously?!

That is not the extent of my gripe with the new changes. If I was a single mother I would have access to tax credits to pay for childcare while I went to work. I would still be entitled to child benefit. I would be better able to work. But because I chose to spend the majority of my time bringing up my children, and rely on my husband’s salary I have no access to any of that help. My career as a lawyer has been abandoned because it is not financially worth it for our family for me to finish my training.

But, in ten years time will I still be married to my husband? I hope so, but statistics tell us otherwise. So the sacrifice of giving up my career weighs heavily upon me, and other stay at home mothers. Punished by the government for having successful husbands, we ourselves are not given the opportunity to flourish like single mothers are, like mothers on benefits are. We are not given free training, help with childcare costs, and now we are not even given child benefit. There is no consideration of the long term effects of the changes that these cuts have upon stay at home mothers.

It is in the press today that stay at home mothers now have a boost because pension rates are going up. I don’t even know how that will work because apparently I am not entitled to a state pension any more unless I choose to pay my own National Insurance Contributions. Even with the increased pension amount, this is only  the basic pension. Of course, my husband will be entitled to an enhanced pension. Bully for him (and me if we are still together) but as I have mentioned, statistics suggest we won’t be. So I’ll be hard done by again – all for choosing to bring up our children at home.

I knew that I would be making personal and financial sacrifices by choosing to give up my career and stay at home to look after the kids but I didn’t think that I would be making these harsh financial sacrifices by having basic government entitlements taken away. I thought that being a stay at home mother was a worthwhile thing to do – clearly the government disagrees.

George Osborne says that he is giving up his child benefit because he doesn’t want his children growing up in a country riddled by debt. I think he is missing the point. He is rumoured to have a personal fortune of 4m if Wikipedia is to be believed. In any event, they certainly aren’t poor. They don’t really know what it is like in our world. My children will likely grow up personally riddled with debt the same as we are – crippled by student loan repayments and higher tax rates as a result of going to university and getting good jobs. They will be too burdened by paying back student loans to save for house deposits. They too will watch the majority of their pay packets disappear in tax to fund somebody else’s lifestyle.

I have given up my child benefit, and my children are paying the price, and they are paying the price now and they will pay the price in the future.

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