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A million families will lose their child benefits by 2020

A million British families are about to lose their child benefit (a welfare payment for each child you have) because they’re considered too well off to need it.

What it means: What should government welfare be for? To help the poorest? Or to encourage behaviours the government thinks is desirable? Since the late ‘70s, the UK has given money to anyone living in Britain who has a child under 16 (or under 20 if they remain in full-time education or training). Parents or guardians are currently paid £20.70 a week for their oldest child and £13.70 for any younger children. The average family has two kids in it and therefore receives £1,789 a year.

Why should society (welfare benefits - like most government revenue - is funded by taxing people on their salary, home, stuff they buy etc.) pay people to have kids? Well, kids are expensive (they cost their parents almost £11,000 a year, according to the Centre of Economic and Business Research) so parents may need more financial help than their childless peers. And kids can be good for society as a whole, because when they grow up they become the workers we need to keep our business, government and social services chugging along and to pay the taxes which fund our old-age pensions. Plus, we were all kids once, right?

But child benefit is not means-tested (i.e. based on how rich you are, as opposed to universal, where everyone get the benefit regardless of wealth), which means richer people get the same amount as poorer people. Paying rich people welfare is often considered unfair and/or bad practice when the government is supposed to be semi-broke (see: that great big austerity cuts-cuts-cuts thing that’s been happening for the last few years).

So in 2013, the government announced that as soon as a parent/guardian earned more than £60,000 (double the average UK salary) they would stop getting child benefit, and anyone earning over £50,000 would get only some of it. Some people think that this definition of “well off” is unfair because it doesn’t take inflation (explainer here) into account. But 68 percent of Brits agree that earning over £60k makes you “rich”.

Read our explainers about tax and government budgets.

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