This morning a report has been released by Gingerbread, showing that single parents will be the worst hit by the planned cuts to Tax Credits. You may have seen me being interviewed on Good Morning Britain this morning about how cuts to Tax Credits will affect me.
The two main changes are:
- Reducing the amount claimants can earn before tax credits are reduced before they begin to taper off payments. Presently, we can earn £6,420 before they begin to cut Tax Credits. If these cuts go ahead, in April next year that figure will reduce to £3,850
- The taper rate will be increased from 41% to 48% – meaning that for every pound over £3,850 we earn, our Working Tax Credits will be reduced by 48p.
A figure of £400 per year has been quoted as the amount the “average” family will lose out when these cuts come in. Single parent families are not average, though. Research commissioned by Gingerbread shows that actually, working single parent households are likely to see a whopping £700 per year drop in income. That’s 3.9% of income, compared with around a 1% drop for couple parent households. That £700 figure rises to £1,040 for single parent families on middle incomes.
Doesn’t that graph look a bit backward to you?
You might say that people with higher incomes can stand to lose more… but doesn’t that just send them back into the lower income bracket? How are they ever to get over that hump, and be on the far right of the graph – or even off the edge, and no longer in need of help – if the help is withdrawn as soon as they begin to get somewhere?
I understand that something needs to change with the benefit system so that it “pays to work” or whatever catchy slogan their PR people have thought up this time. But it seems backward to put people in a position where they are essentially trapped in the lowest income bracket. If they’re stuck there, earning a pittance and never seeing their children… won’t it make them feel that it would be better to be on Income Support and at least get to spend time with thier children?
Also, Gingerbread make a valid point here:
Cuts to in-work benefits without vital improvements to structural barriers to work will leave single parents in a precarious potision; the combined result will mean that, for those paying both income tax and national insurance, they will lose 80p for every extra £1 earned.
When it’s put like that, what incentive is there for me to continue to work? My daughter is in nursery for 36 hours per week; I work upwards of 40 hours per week. Often 50 or more. If I wind up my business and claim Income Support, S will still get 15 free hours per week at nursery, and I can actually spend some quality time with her outside of that.
I continue to work because, unlike many other single parents, I have the opportunity to earn more income. Being self employed, I can raise my prices, diversify the services I offer, find other ways to grow my business. There is hope for me, and I cling to that.
But what about those single parents who are not self employed? Before I was made redundant, I worked 15 hours per week in an office, and those 15 hours were all I could do. Even if I was offered overtime, I wouldn’t have been able to take it because I could only work for the hours S was in nursery. Thousands, if not millions of single parents are in this situation. Suddenly next April they will be faced with a decision: do I stay here, and just try to deal with this drop in my income (while prices continue to rise), or do I cut my losses? Leave my job and claim Income Support? The majority will continue to work, because they want to provide for their children. For all the smearing the right-wing media likes to do, we single parents actually work bloody hard. Many of us play both parental roles at home, with no respite when either parent or child is ill. Single parents are both the main carer and main earner. And housekeeper, cook, monster scarer, story teller, the lot. We do everything, and yet these welfare reforms will hit us hardest. How is that fair?
Almost two-thirds of single parents are in work. We’re not the feckless losers the media paints us as. We work hard to put food on the table and provide for our children. While the media vilifies us as spongers, spending our benefits on fags and flat screen tellys, the government is making plans to keep us firmly beneath the heels of the wealthy forever more.
I really do not understand how cutting Tax Credits will ever make it pay to work. If they want fewer people to be reliant on Tax Credits, how will making us all worse off help with that?
And yes, by daring to speak out against benefit cuts I risk being called a filthy scrounger, sponging off the state and so on. People may choose to look down upon me because I am raising a child alone. But she is possibly the happiest child you will ever meet. She is intelligent and kind and funny and caring. What does it matter, how many guardians she has at home? Who is to say that my daughter, or any of the millions of other children of single parents out there, won’t grow up to do great things? All she needs – all we need – is a little help along the way.
Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, you might be interested in this post about cuts to Tax Credits