Is the Government putting children in poverty, and do we care?

family chainsJust sent the kids back to school? Grateful that the ankle-biting blighters are not round your ankles anymore or lamenting the return of school run traffic clogging up your daily commute? Either way, what better time to release new research into the poor, put-upon UK family, entitled “The impact of austerity measures on households with children”? But is this really news, do we really care, and are people with children just victims of their own life choices?

The report, from the Family and Parenting Institute (FPI) builds upon research already published (and reported on) by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) into the growing likelihood of child poverty in the UK owing to the ‘austerity measures’ imposed by the Government. Of course, such measures are being whacked on the country as a whole, but with the changes to tax credits, specifically child tax credit, and child benefit, it is families who are feeling the pinch most keenly.

This ‘new’ research does not dispute any of the earlier findings, but rather analyses which types of family and which sections of society are most likely to become classed as in poverty (defined as either  60% or less of the median UK income, or as having income below a stated amount set in 2010/11) between now and 2015.

The first conclusion is that if you have four or more children, they are more likely to be in poverty than families with fewer children in the family. While this would seem to be simple plain common blinking sense, this is actually based on family (likely to be parental) income, not a per-child measure. Also, families with two children are less likely to be in poverty than those with one. How very 2.4 Children. So, these findings suggest that those with the least money are having the most children, a hypothesis supported by the conclusion that “reforms to tax credits increase the amount of benefit received if parents do not work, but reduce the amount of benefit received in work.” And after all, if you aren’t working, you need to do something to occupy your time, don’t you?

But this is perhaps the only useful conclusion. The report goes on to discover that families with children aged under five are more likely to be in poverty than those with children aged 5-10 or 11-18, and that Pakistani and Bangladeshi families are the most  likely to be in poverty than any other ethnic group. If you hail from Bangalore and have four children under five, then, you are screwed.

The problem with the report is that, other than the number of children, families can’t really do much about the ages of their children or their ethnicity. How does this report help anyone? Would the FPI really suggest that all Pakistani and Bangladeshi families get extra tax credits just because they are Pakistani or Bangladeshi? What use is research that identifies problems without solutions? If I were on the board of the FPI I might prefer spending our charitable funds helping families who are  in poverty, rather than on research that tells me the hypothetical likelihood of a certain family falling into poverty. Just a thought.

But there is also a wider issue. Government spending has certainly been cut, and many sections of society are facing reduced circumstances, compared with a few  years ago. It is generally accepted that people with families should get extra help/income/tax credits to help them bring up their family.

Or should they? If we assume that it  costs £200,00 to get a child up to age 18, is it not a personal choice to spend your money on a child rather than, say, a holiday home, a Bugatti Veyron or a substantial collection of designer shoes? A Jimmy Choo toting single person driving their Bugatti to their Cornwall retreat would not expect State help for their lifestyle choices, so why do parents?

Research done last year by PolicyExchange looked at the issue of fairness and entitlement in society, and found that “The majority of people think that fairness is mainly a question of people getting what they deserve, rather than being about equal treatment.”

The survey also found that more people do not support either benefits or tax breaks for people with children. 55% of people disagreed with the idea that “people with children should be given higher benefits to compensate for the costs of bringing them up”  with only 36% being in agreement. A greater percentage of people (44%) agreed that “people with children should have to pay less tax to compensate for the costs of bringing them up”, but there were still  47% who disagreed. People also think there should be a limit on the help available. By more than two to one (66%-27%) respondents agreed that “people who have more than three children should not get extra child benefit if they have a fourth”.

So, should we feel sorry for families or let them lie in their self-made beds? And won’t somebody please think of the children?*

*Mrs Helen Lovejoy.


  • Alexis
    "If we assume that it costs £200,00 to get a child up to age 18, is it not a personal choice to spend your money on a child rather than, say, a holiday home, a Bugatti Veyron or a substantial collection of designer shoes? A Jimmy Choo toting single person driving their Bugatti to their Cornwall retreat would not expect State help for their lifestyle choices, so why do parents?" I think it's just generally accepted that every person has a right and a biological need to reproduce (in most cases). Nobody would have £200,000 to spend on a Veyron if the population was only 500,000 people. I think it's also accepted that the state has a duty to help those bringing up people, in the same way they have a duty to help pensioners, or the sick.
  • Pay w.
    I thought the FPI was the Family Planning Institute - at least it should be! Whatever the comments here (not most will be "I think ") the inescapable fact is that every government intervention results in a change in behaviour. If you give money to those with more kids, that translates to giving more money to have kids. Put another way, making kids more affordable or (in the case of those who don't understand the full cost) seemingly profitable naturally allows people to have more kids.
  • Pay w.
    sorry, some characters were not recognised... the above should have read as: Whatever the comments here (most will be, “I think -( insert some tosh here )-")
  • IveHadTheSnip
    It's easy to moan about families with masses of screaming children, but it's in the interest of society for the birthrate to stay up. My four screaming children will eventually become productive adult members of society who will be paying taxes to help support the Bitterwallet dudes in their old age ... as they sit in their old folks' homes reminiscing about the cool old days of the internet in between lecherously eyeing up nearby old ladies and watching vintage porn from the 2000s. When the birthrate declines, the number of workers declines, and then you get complications like needing immigrant labour to fill jobs. That can lead to social problems if the immigrants don't accept the norms of their new culture. See what's happened in Holland (the murder of Theo Van Gogh) and to some extent the UK. As such I think providing incentive to raise kids is a good idea, even if you'll end up with some layabouts and spongers. I could have lived a life of leisure and travel and Bugattis sans children (and those who choose this are OK by me) but instead I'm (hopefully) overseeing adults who will contribute to society and help maintain a sane and tolerant Britain.
  • Avon B.
    There are too many people in the world, let alone in this country. The fewer people there are, the fewer are required to support them. Multiculturalism has failed (it was never going to work anyway). Paying for children to be raised encourages bad/thick parents to have more as a cash crop, and their children go on to have litters proportionately more dependent on the state than their forebears, because they're used to it. And if you can buy a Bugatti Veyron for £200K, I'd like one too please.
  • The B.
    I'm one of the Veyron types but I don't want to pay for kids, mine or anyone else's, can I have a rebate?
  • Sam T.
    Bob, if you have a Veyron, I'll dump the kids and be round in five...
  • Chewbacca
    "Is the Government putting children in poverty?" Yes "do we care?" No. In any case, funding the meek and the feckless in the form of benefits only ensures that each subsequent generation will spawn more meek and feckless people. Fuck 'em.
  • The m.
    Can I sell my children to buy a Buggatti? I throw my wife as a freebie in the transaction !
  • lorne
    why is it always pakistanis and bangladeshis that manage to be the poorest..whats difference between them on benefits with 4 young kids and a english family on benefits with same situation [ thought might be better off as they tend not to drink alcohol] methinks its crap
  • David
    What people forget is children in poverty is not the same thing as families in poverty. Lots of children are not provided for properly despite having enough income. Replace cash benefits with food stamps. Now.
  • someone
    Bangalore's in the south of India. Not in Bangladesh.
  • The B.
    Replace cash benefits with food stamps." David We did that already, someone screamed "human rights abuse" and it was revoked.
  • Mike H.
    No, the chavs who are trying to rape the country for all it's worth are putting the children in poverty. Taking as much as they can and more but not putting anything back in.
  • klingelton
    give tax breaks to those that pay tax, don't increase benefits based on the number of kids you have - that way if some scummy mummy has 14 kids, she needs to find the money to feed 14 kids, a-la find a job. It's high time the state stopped propping these people up. Yes it would be harsh now, but in 10 years time, scummy mummy wouldn't have 14 kids. Of the 14 kids she raises, how many would become a useful member of society?
  • Nick T.
    @ Klingelton Plus, she'd have a fanny like a bucket.

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