Campaigners say: means testing Child Benefit is 'an attack on marriage'

Christians who voted Conservative over their stance on marriage and policies to tackle 'Breakdown Britain' will feel betrayed by the extension of means-testing to Child Benefit, according to the cross-denominational party, the Christian Peoples Alliance. Commenting today on Chancellor George Osborne's decision to axe Child Benefit from 2013 to all higher-paying earners, the CPA says that extending means-testing will undermine marriage, the family and having children.

Speaking to the Conservative conference, George Osborne explained child benefit will be removed from families where either parent earns enough to pay 40 per cent income tax - currently around £44,000. This will mean that two-earner households where neither parent's income is above this threshold will continue to receive the benefit. This could mean families with an income of almost £88,000 receive child benefit, while others on little more than half this sum lose out because one of the parents stays at home to look after the children.

Sid Cordle MBE is a financial advisor and a former member of the Conservative Party National Executive. He stood in the General Election earlier this year for the CPA in south-east London. Commenting on today's announcement, he said: "The married middle classes will feel betrayed by the Conservatives. George Osborne's policy gives another incentive to couples to have children out of wedlock.

"This is because married couples' income is aggregated for tax purposes. In addition, traditional families where a husband works while his wife raises their two children at home will lose out by around £1500. This is a tax raid on the traditional married family unit and incentivises divorce. The cap of £26,000 on total benefits a household can claim is also an attack on marriage, as a split family has a better chance of avoiding the aggregate limit."

Before the General Election, the Christian Peoples Alliance warned that the Conservative promise to introduce a married couples tax allowance of just £150.00 was not to be trusted and was inadequate in tackling poverty. They are now pointing out that all talk of backing marriage with financial measures has been abandoned by the government. In July, the Children and Families minister, Sarah Teather, told the Guardian she had "no idea" when a transferable married couples' tax allowance could be introduced. According to the Conservative-linked Centre for Social Justice, the measure won't happen in this Parliament.

According to Relate chief executive, Claire Tyler, relationship breakdown costs the country £24bn a year, whereas the government currently spends just £7m on addressing the issue.

Sid Cordle added: "Financial worries are a big driver of relationship breakdown, so the government should be increasing child tax credits still further to offset the recent rise in VAT. Without universal entitlements, you remove the incentive to work hard and save and you also directly attack marriage, as once child benefit is means-tested it is self-evident it disadvantages the legally married. Iain Duncan-Smith may have won some battles - but he is losing here. "

George Osborne's move today will affect around 15 per cent of UK families and means middle-class parents will lose out on £1,055 a year if they have one child.

Currently child benefit is paid to all families with children, costing about £12bn a year. Parents are paid £20.30 a week for the eldest child and £13.40 for subsequent children, with payments continuing until the age of 19 for those in full-time education.

Tags: Chancellor George Osborne, Child Benefit, Christian Peoples Alliance, means testing

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