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Urgent call for raise in Child Benefit

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raise child benefits, end two-child limit, Coronavirus crisis, families in poverty, letter, Rishi Sunak, social policy academicsEase the pressing burdens families are experiencing in these unprecedented times.

With millions of families facing a catastrophic loss of income due to the coronavirus, 85 leading social policy academics from the London School of Economics (LSE) and universities throughout the UK, have signed a letter calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, to raise Child Benefit to £50 per child per week.

An increase, they say, would be a simple, efficient and cost-effective way to provide urgently-needed help.

Increasing Child Benefit would immediately get money to families, with no waits, no complex claim forms and no new administration. It just needs a stroke of the Chancellor’s pen and a change to a computer code.

In the letter the signatories, among them Professor Sir John Hills of LSE and Loughborough University’s Professor Baroness Lister of Burtersett, said that raising Child Benefit “crucially requires no changes to systems and will offer instant impact”.

They added: “There continues to be frenzied debate about what income support measures are most urgently needed over the next few months, in addition to those already put in place.

“Our advice to Government, as social security experts who have analysed in detail the relevant data and urgent needs of families, is not to fail to see the wood for the trees. A rise in Child Benefit offers an immediate way forward”.

The letter said:

Dear Chancellor,

Raising Child Benefit to £50 to Help Families through the COVID-19 Pandemic

As part of your ongoing response to the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we propose a simple, efficient and cost-effective way to help the Government provide urgently-needed support  to families – that is, immediately increasing Child Benefit to  £50 per child, per week.

Crucially, it requires no changes to systems and will offer instant impact.

As you will be aware, Child Benefit is currently paid at £20.70 a week for your first child, and £13.70 for subsequent children.

A number of charities have rightly advocated an increase in Child Benefit, suggesting a £10 rise. Evidence shows Child Benefit now covers at best a fifth of the cost of raising a child –from food to clothing and basic utilities – meaning £10 is in truth a modest sum, with a far higher figure justifiable.

Child Benefit of £50 per child per week would be a reasonable and appropriate step.

Any concern about payments being made to those who may not need them will be assuaged by the High Income Child Benefit Charge for people earning over £50,000. This cut-off is already in place, so again no new arrangements are required.

However, given the current extraordinary circumstances, the Government could achieve further simplification by abolishing that charge.

We also suggest it would be prudent to abolish the 2-child limit to Universal Credit and Tax Credits, which while not directly relevant to Child Benefit, impacts severely on other support.

This would ease the pressing burdens families are experiencing in these unprecedented times.

Understandably, there continues to be significant debate about what income support measures are most urgently needed over the next few months, in addition to those already put in place. Our advice to Government, as social security experts who have analysed in detail the relevant data and urgent needs of families, is not to fail to see the wood for the trees. A rise in Child Benefit offers an immediate way forward.

We would be  delighted to discuss this further, and arrangements can be coordinated via Dr Kate Summers at LSE,  who is at k.summers@lse.ac.uk.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw (University of York)

Professor Sir John Hills (London School of Economics)

Professor Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Loughborough University)

Dr Michael Orton (University of Warwick)

Dr Kate Summers (London School of Economics)

Professor Sharon Wright (University of Glasgow)

To see the full list of the 79 further signatories, click here.

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