Family allowance withdrawal unfair

I WAS upset and disappointed to receive a letter recording that the States are to stop paying our family allowance [benefit] from January 2022. We have been neither consulted nor previously informed about this change, which is the equivalent of a direct tax on our household income just for having a young family.

I imagine a number of families in the same situation reading this will be equally concerned and upset about an arbitrary decision to withdraw a universal benefit which has been honoured for every generation of family before us since its introduction. I should also like to respectfully point out that our family pays in much more to the system than this allowance would ever pay out to us, a rather different situation than, for example, the crisis in the cost of social care that our government will no doubt be asking the working demographic to pay for shortly, despite them not being the recipients of the related services that have to be provided.

These decisions matter, they are unfair and discriminatory and they have set a dangerous precedent for the Bailiwick. The basis of the withdrawal of our family allowance is simply that in the eyes of the States, we ‘earn too much’. Who sets that limit? Have the States any idea what a family’s income is spent on? What’s the basis of the calculation? Let’s just for a moment apply the same principle for the States old age pension, or indeed States deputy salaries. It seems the States will hide behind the reaction of some to this letter that we earn enough as a family, so stop moaning but if, for example, your States pension stopped on 1 January because your income (or, let’s be honest, total household assets) are deemed to be ‘too much’ and you lost a payment you expected your government to honour, there would be outcry, and rightly so. It would simply never happen, but it’s fair game for younger people working hard and trying to progress.

At least Mr Ashton (‘Administrator’) who sent our letter is honest in that the change will generate savings. It certainly will, because we will continue to pay in, will get nothing out but will be making up the difference to our continued household expenditure. But at least we’ll only pay £25 for medical appointments next year for the children, which last year would have provided a gain of £75 versus the £1,500 we are losing. Quite a saving to the States but not to us. We’d get these free and we’d get our family allowance if we didn’t work or if we separated, so can you see how this starts to feel very unfair?

To provide some context for our situation, my husband works in finance, and I’m in health care, both, I hope, important sectors for our community. We work really hard and over the years have been promoted as our careers and our family has progressed. As a result, we now earn combined just over the limit that has been set to lose our £1,500 per year family allowance but still have taxes, insurance, mortgages, food (and, no doubt, an incoming GST and a health care tax to pay shortly). Half our income goes on a mortgage, that’s half our income just to have a family home because it is so expensive here, and we save for a pension to make sure we are not a burden on the States if we can ever retire in the future. We do not live lavishly and we try to plan for the future. We also prioritise our children and this is their benefit that is being lost.

We regularly receive offers globally for work as we are both so portable professionally but have, to date, tried to make Guernsey our forever home. I’m pretty sure our demographic and contribution would be better respected elsewhere but am also sure that some readers of this letter will simply say ‘well go then’, which just misses the whole point of me writing these thoughts which are essentially about fairness and equity of treatment, something we should all be very interested in supporting.

I don’t want to be named as this is a small community and our careers could be affected. We also certainly don’t want our children to be in any way identified by signing this letter with our names and address, but I do feel strongly that this decision needs to be challenged and hope that our deputies might please reconsider and really ask themselves: did they really consult with those affected and think through the principle they are introducing which cancels (for the first time in our history) a universal benefit aimed at supporting children?

I think if they are honest, they have not.


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