STRUGGLING families are losing out on hundreds of pounds a year as a result of changes to child benefit over the past decade, said Unison yesterday.
According to the report, Child Benefit – Still Under Attack, changes made by the government since 2010 have hit hard-pressed families and their pockets.
A family with two children is now £450 a year worse off than they would have been in 2010.
This is when the coalition government decided increases to child benefit would be calculated using the consumer price index (CPI) instead of the retail price index (RPI).
In the following three years, child benefit was frozen and in 2014/15 and 2015/16, the increase was capped at 1%.
Since then, child benefit has been frozen again which means a family with two children has lost a total of £2,226.83 since April 2011.
This ‘loss’ of child benefit equates to £8.67 a week. At current prices this would buy four tins of baked beans (£2), a box of Coco Pops (£2), 250g long-grain rice (£1), four Fairtrade bananas (89p) and 350g mature cheddar cheese (£2.50) at the Co-op.
Or it could buy one litre of skimmed milk (86p), 15 medium eggs (£1.25), a Warburtons medium white sliced loaf (£1.10), a bag of straight-cut chips (90p), washing up liquid (65p), pork loin medallions (£2.39) and eight sausages (£1.29) at Aldi.
Child benefit is currently worth £20.70 for a first child and £13.70 for subsequent children.
But if it had increased at the rate of RPI (as it did before 2010), child benefit would now be £25.95 a week for the eldest child and £17.13 a week for each subsequent one.
Historically child benefit has usually been paid to women as the principal carers and yesterday, this International Women’s Day Unison is urging the government to enhance child benefit in next week’s spring statement.
Unison assistant general secretary, Christina McAnea, said: ‘We can’t ignore the fact that as child benefit has been cut, there’s been a rise in child poverty, household debt and the use of food banks.
‘Child benefit is predominantly paid to women and the changes have had a significant impact on families, especially those on low pay, which is simply unfair and unjustifiable.
‘In the spring statement next Wednesday, the chancellor should announce an above-inflation increase in child benefit as a first step to restoring its real value.’