Ed Balls announced yesterday his intention to cap Child Benefit for two years following a potential Labour victory next year. This is apparently one way of demonstrating just how safe the economy would be in his hands for in this one simple action he will be saving us all a whopping £400 million. £400 million wiped off our collective debt through just a bit of a restriction on how much of an increase we get. Hurrah for that. Or perhaps not. After all, it may seem like only a bit less money but what is the real cost of that to real people?
When I say ‘people’ what I really mean of course, is families: children and their parents. Children will be directly and negatively affected by such a cap. Figures from the IFS suggest that with the 1% cap on benefit increases set to continue, we will be looking at 1 in 4 children being in poverty by 2020. That’s millions of children according to the Child Poverty Action Group pushed into poverty by having that bit less money. Children who will be a bit less well-fed; a bit less warm; a bit less able to engage in school extra-curricular activities; a bit more different to their more affluent peers. Millions of children whose life chances will be yet further knocked, restricted and who as a result will shift that bit closer to becoming adults in poverty.
That’s the parents of millions of children left feeling a bit less capable; a bit more desperate; a bit more torn between paying the rent or buying that extra food. According to The Fawcett Society it’s women on low-incomes eating and heating a bit less.
That’s significant numbers of Labour voters witnessing with distress a bit more undermining of what the Party has historically stood for. Back in 2013 when the Conservatives announced their intention to cap increases in benefits at 1%, Labour were quick to denounce such a move highlighting how it was children, 200 000 of them, who were ‘victims’ of these ‘Tory games’. Liam Byrne declared that such actions underlined the return of the ‘the nasty party’. So where then does this leave Labour given that they have decided to sign up to the same deal?
So Labour, in case you’ve forgotten, it’s your job to stand up for those who need support and protection. This policy is way beneath you and way below the expectations we have of you. Right now, I have to admit, it feels like the ultimate betrayal.