Front load child benefit to encourage bonding

Front Loading of child benefit to encourage mother-child bonding and lead
to better life outcomes for children is an idea advocated by Frank Field MP
who is an expert on welfare and families. He was not flavour of the month
with Tony Blair. The difficulty with this innovation is that it ignores the
burden on parents as children go through their teens. I believe that child
care spending should be increased and targeted at the middle and lower
incomes in a graduated way. The report below is published in the Daily
Telegraph on 12 June.

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Frank Field Labour MP for Birkenhead says pay new mothers £25,000 to stay
at home to bond with their babies.

New mothers should get a quarter of all their child’s benefits in just the
first two years of a baby’s life to reduce the pressure on them to go back
to work, it has been suggested.

The move for bringing forward the payments and letting mothers stay at home
and let them bond more easily with their babies, according to the
Government’s poverty adviser.

Currently, poorer parents are eligible to be paid as much as £100,000 in
benefits and tax credits in equal instaments over the first 19 years of a
child’s life, if he or she stays still in full time education.

However, Frank Field, the Labour MP for Birkenhead, suggested the
Government should tailor the system of child benefits so that it better
suited parents’ lives.

This could see a quarter of this total – £25,000 – paid out in just the
first two years of a child’s life, to take the financial pressure off young
mothers to go back to work and encourage them to spend more time with their
babies.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Welfare and Pensions secretary, has already
announced a widespread review of the welfare system.

Mr Field told The Daily Telegraph: “Mothers might like a say in their
benefits, like for example, drawing a quarter of their benefits in the
first two years because that is when they are most vulnerable on the cash
side.”

The effect, he said, would be to incentivise mothers to stay at home to
“bond” with their children, rather than rush back to work.

He said: “Many working mums would not want to go out to work probably for
the first two years of the child’s life, they would want to bond with them.

“Whereas now, with mortgages and only one income, the pressure is on
[mothers] to get out to work again.”

The previous Labour Government was criticised for encouraging working
mothers to go back to work too soon. Last September, research found that
children of working mothers were likely to be less healthy than those who
stay at home.

Mr Field suggested that child benefit payments could stop when a teenager
reaches 13 or 14 because by that stage parents were more inclined to go out
to work. The total amount paid in child benefit would not be cut, but paid
out over a shorter period.

He said: “The older the child, the more hours a mother works. So therefore
surely one of the things the Government should be looking at is whether you
‘tailor-make’ benefits which fit in with how mums and dads manage their
lives.

“There is maximum strain when the baby is youngest, when you want to bond
with your baby and go to work, and later on when you are much happier about
working, the child is becoming a young adult and more independent.”

Under the current system the wealthiest parents receive £20 a week in
un-means tested child benefit for their first child and £13.40 for each
sibling. This works out at £20,000 for the first child by the age of 19,
and £13,200 for each subsequent child.

Mr Field said that while he was against means testing child benefit to
limit payments to well-off parents, one way to limit them was to make them
taxable, so that richer parents would pay 40 per cent tax on their payments.

Mr Field has agreed to produce a report on poverty and life chances for Mr
Duncan Smith by Christmas. The review is charged with studying the extent
of poverty in the UK and coming up with recommendations to help poorer
people.

He said the review would be looking at whether the Government could develop
“a robust and sensible definition of poverty that goes beyond financial and
looks at non-financial aspects of poverty”.

He said he wanted to set up a new index to “measure life chances, and
particularly life chances of children”.

The index would ensure that “at the end of the parliament we are not just
looking at poverty but whether we have increased the life chances of
children”.

A source at the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Iain Duncan Smith
is looking forward to working with Frank Field. All options are on the
table at the moment. We are very interested to get his expertise and look
forward to his submission.”

Yvette Cooper, the former Labour Work and Pensions secretary, said: “Child
benefit makes a massive difference to families across the country. As
parents well know, it can get even more expensive, not less, looking after
teenagers.

“We’ve always believed some support should be focused on the poorest
families, some should be for low and middle income families, but some -like
child benefit, which is mainly paid to mums – should be for all families.

“Raising children is important for our whole society and we should
recognise that. That’s why it isn’t just the poorest families who should
get help and recognition.”