Families come in all sizes and shapes, as a programme I worked on all summer will show. (Real Families with Steve Evans 22.35 BBC 1 Wales tonight)
One thing that became clear to me whilst working on the programme was how great a financial strain many families are under.
How must these hard pressed families feel when the hear Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor get up and say that child benefit will only be increased by 1% until 2017 in the event of a Labour government.
A gesture by Ed Balls to convince the nation that he’s determined to reduce the economic deficit. But in his attempt at convincing about his economic competence Ball risks alienating ordinary families up and down the land.
Child benefit is £20.50 per week for the first child and £13.55 for the second and subsequent children. Gordon Brown rescued child benefits after the Thatcher and Major governments had eroded the benefits as part of his child poverty strategy. But, true to form, as soon as the coalition came to power in 2010, it froze the benefit for four years and said it would be increased by 1% rather than in line with inflation for three subsequent years. Families are getting around £6 less per week than they did in 2010 as a result.
Now Ball announces he’s to continue the coalitions work. Now there will be no relief for poor families until after 2017.
Families with children have seen their disposable income fall since 2009-10. Living standards of families with children have fallen because price inflation has exceeded income growth in every year for the last six years, in part because of the freeze in child benefit.
The Welsh Government has made it a priority to eliminate child poverty by 2020. This looks like another target that will be missed. Carwyn Jones’s own colleagues in Westminster are making his laudable ambition almost impossible to realise.
For Labour to produce an unjust, shortsighted policy goes in someway to explain why large numbers feel that the parties in Westminster are all the same. Who can deny that in this policy area they are certainly singing from the same hymn sheet?