Headlines: January 21st, 2005

An average couple bringing up children together are only a pound a week better off than a lone parent but could get a big increase in income from the state if they split up, according to a report published today.In “The Price of Parenthood”, from the centre for Policy Studies, Jill Kirby calls for an end to bias against the two-parent family and says Britain could learn from recent welfare reforms in the United States.

Her report says levels of public subsidy to households with children have doubled since 1997 and now stand at 22 billion pounds a year. It says, though, that financial penalties on couples bringing up children together have grown as the birth rate has fallen and she says the biggest fall in birth rate has been among families of average income.

Jill Kirby, who chairs the CPS/Civitas Family Policy Project, says the proportion of children being brought up by a lone parent has risen by a quarter since 1997 but adds that this is not surprising as she believes family break up is, in effect, being subsidised by the state. The report says a couple with a single earner on average income are only just over a pound a week better off than a lone-parent household entirely dependent on welfare payments. If the couple were to split up their income, after tax and housing costs, could rise by between 35 and 65 per cent depending on whether the man paid child maintenance or evaded it.

Tax credits, she claims, have not reformed welfare but simply disguised it. Reform, she believes, is possible and she points to the example of the United States and says Britain should learn from its example if it is to treat the causes of child poverty and family breakdown.

“The bias against two-parent families must be removed,” she says. “Welfare support should be limited to short-term relief of hardship and should not be a substitute for family support,” she adds.