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 It has since been replaced by a new credit system, but the intention is the same: to see that those who don't make national insurance contributions because of caring responsibilities don't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.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.