Child benefit cut will hit women hardest

The cuts will create gender inequality in state pension provision

The cuts will create gender inequality in state pension provision

George Osborne's proposal to scrap universal child benefit is yet another example of how the spending cuts will hit women disproportionately hard.

As Sunder Katwala at Next Left and others have pointed out already today, the cuts to child benefit will have worrying ramifications for women's state pension entitlement. Here's a bit more detail about what it will mean.

There is currently special provision in the state pension system for carers who aren't in formal employment, and it is closely linked to the benefit system. Until 6 April 2010, those with caring responsibilities were entitled to something called Home Responsibilities Protection (HRP), which could reduce the number of qualifying years of national insurance contributions for carers not in work, protecting their right to a full state pension. It has since been replaced by a new credit system, but the intention is the same: to see that those who don't make national insurance contributions because of caring responsibilities don't lose out on their state pension entitlement.

The criteria for receiving the new "carer's credit" is unambiguous: you are eligible if you receive "Child Benefit for a child under 12 years of age", are a foster carer, or care for a disabled person for at least 20 hours a week.

While the child benefit cut will, in practice, only affect those who are already relatively comfortably off, it is yet another example of how the cuts will have a greater impact on women than men. Women who stay at home to care for children while a partner earning more than £44,000 supports the family will lose their entitlement to the carer's credit, and thus the full value of their state pension.

This inequality, created by the cuts announced by Osborne today, is in addition to the absurdity (already highlighted by my colleague George Eaton this morning) that the cuts will leave households with a single earner bringing home more than £44,000 without child benefit, while double-income families where neither earner makes more than £43,000 will continue to receive child benefit.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.