At the very least treat families equally in Child Benefit

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by Lisa Eadie

1st February 2016

With three children in the house, two of which are now teenagers, I often hear the phrase “It’s not fair” to which I usually reply “Life isn’t, get used to it”.  But on reflection maybe it’s too much for a child to accept this when, as adults, we often don’t.

I particularly find myself questioning the fairness of life every January when we have to complete the dreaded tax return.  After working hard all year, it really sticks in my teeth when I have to write a cheque to pay back Child Benefit knowing there are other joint earner families on a higher joint income who will still receive it!   For those who don’t know how it works, let’s look at the facts.

If I went out to work and earned £45,000 per annum and my husband did the same we would have a household income of £90,000 and I wouldn’t be writing a cheque for thousands of pounds to pass back to the government. As a single income family our household income is considerably less than this, but above the higher rate threshold and therefore we have to pay back our Child Benefit. On top of this, my husband cannot use my tax-free allowance as he is taxed at the higher rate (a threshold which the government has been very quiet about when “sort-of implementing” its manifesto commitment).  This is affecting professional people who have studied and worked hard to be in the jobs they are in.  How this encourages marriage and commitment and the ambition to excel, I will never know! My husband has worked long hours to earn that money, often away from the family during the week in a job that would be difficult for him to do if I worked. In other words, the Government ignores marriage in every aspect of taxation except where they want to claw back child benefit, when suddenly it seems to matter.

Our children are now older and after being at home looking after them, it’s now time for me to move on and go back to work, it’s my time and with increasing costs, the extra money would be welcome. However even that is difficult and I’m finding it very frustrating sending my CV out with no response. I worked for ten years before children, but during my time at home I’ve been very active in the community, not wanting to just be ‘mum’ and have no gaps in my CV. It’s been amazing and I’ve gained great confidence, skills, friends and reputation but it’s just not recognised by employers thanks to the government’s attitude to us parents who take time out to do the most important job in the world.

The government wants women in work but those of us who have been keeping the community running whilst raising the future have been forgotten – mainly because we cost them very little – we are self sufficient! Finding it difficult to find a job, I’m now thinking of starting my own business but again hitting obstacles with the costs of training and the lack of capital to do this  – so Mr Government, if I could keep the money I’m having to pay you back, I could re-train, start a business and go back to work but otherwise I will struggle to find it. When will you realise the level of commitment, brains, power, fight, energy, time, and strength us stay at home parents have? – we are here and without us this country would be a sorry place!

Staying at home to look after children is a personal choice but so is going back to work.  Equal! If only!  I have never wanted to be paid for looking after our children but I do expect to be treated fairly and given respect for the job that I and many others have done.

“It’s not fair”

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