Amidst all the budget fuss over 50p tax rates for the very wealthy and the ‘injustice’ of higher rate taxpayers losing out on Child Benefit, who is prepared to speak up for 212,000 low income working families set to lose £3,870 a year each? It is they who are facing the biggest cut in incomes come April this year.
If you hadn’t already picked this up (and there’s no reason why you should – as most of the media have ignored it), from April 2012 the rules for Working Tax Credit for couples with children will change. Currently, couples have to work at least 16 hours a week between both parents. From April they will have to increase their working hours to at least 24 hours, or they will lose their whole entitlement to Working Tax Credit, worth £3,870 a year.
According to the Government’s own estimates, 894,000 people will be affected. Official figures placed in the House of Commons Library show that 212,000 couples (424,000 adults) will be affected. These households include 470,000 children. This is an average of 1,375 people in each parliamentary constituency.
* 78 per cent say they cannot find the extra hours of work they need. With high levels of unemployment and increasing levels of ‘underemployment’ – the majority of people in part time work simply can’t get all the hours of work they want.
* Child poverty will surge. The families affected by this change are likely to already be close to the poverty threshold. The loss of Working Tax Credit of £3,870 will mean many will be plunged below the poverty line.
* Families will be better off out of work. The current margin between those out of work on benefits, and those in work between 16 and 24 hours, will be erased by this change.
What is even more crazy, is that the government’s own proposals to introduce Universal Credit in 18 months time will reverse the policy. So why make hard working families on low incomes suffer in the meantime?
© Niall Cooper is National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty (www.church-poverty.org.uk ). This article is excerpted from his regular personal / work blog, with grateful acknowledgement: http://niallcooper.wordpress.com/