The chancellor has been urged to raise child benefit by £10 per child per week in a bid to help families experiencing financial pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A coalition of organisations including NCB, Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, Family Rights Group and Action for Children has written an open letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for child benefit to be increased to shield children from additional hardship in such exceptionally difficult times.
The letter said: “We welcome the steps taken so far to protect incomes in this time of great uncertainty. As well as protecting individual incomes, we are convinced there is more to do to meet the needs of the UK's families, focused on meeting children's needs, and easing some of the unexpected financial pressures families are grappling with now that most schools are closed and children are at home full-time.
“We are calling for emergency support for children to ensure all parents can cover the basic costs of raising their children in the face of reduced income and before the new income protection measures can take effect. We have therefore come together to ask you to consider uplifting child benefit by £10 per child per week,” it added.
As child benefit reaches 12.7 million children, an increase in this benefit would offer a fast and effective way to get money to families through existing infrastructure.
The letter highlights that child benefit has been subject to freezes and sub-inflationary uprating since 2011, and it would take more than a £5 increase just to restore its value. However, an increase in child benefit of £10 per child per week, on top of the proposed uprating from 6 April, would reduce child poverty by around five percentage points and household poverty by one to two percentage points.
“This would be more effective in reducing child poverty than the £20 increase in universal credit and working tax credit – although this increase is of course very welcome. Importantly, the benefit cap would also need to be lifted to enable all families to benefit from this increase,” the letter concluded.
Other members of the coalition include Child Poverty Action Group, Women’s Aid Federation of England, the National Education Union and Children England.