Call to raise child benefit by £10 a week to help families during coronavirus pandemic

More than 60 family and children’s charities, advice organisations, academics, unions and faith leaders have written to the Chancellor calling for a £10 per child weekly uplift in child benefit to help families during the Covid-19 crisis.

The charities are calling for emergency support while schools are closed and families stay at home
The charities are calling for emergency support while schools are closed and families stay at home

While they welcome the steps taken so far to support household incomes during the pandemic, they say that families need more help with meeting children’s needs and unexpected costs while schools are closed. 

The letter calls for ‘swift action to strengthen the finances of families and to shield children from additional hardship [which] is critical in such exceptionally difficult times.’

Yesterday’s uprating of child benefit added 35p to its value for an eldest or only child (taking it to £21.05 per week) and 23p (taking it to £13.93 per week) for additional children.

Meanwhile, parents of newborns will still be able to claim child benefit, despite the outbreak of coronavirus, HMRC has announced (see below).

Most families access child benefit and 12.7 million children receive it.

In their letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the charities say that it therefore ‘offers an effective, fast and resilient way to get money to families through our existing infrastructure - families will get the help they need directly into their bank accounts to cover additional costs.’

Signatories to the letter include the Child Poverty Action Group, Barnardo's, Trussell Trust, The Children’s Society and Women’s Aid.

The letter says, ‘As well as protecting individual incomes, we are convinced there is more to do to meet the needs of the UK's families, focused on meeting children's needs, and easing some of the unexpected financial pressures families are grappling with now that most schools are closed and children are at home full-time.

‘We are calling for emergency support for children to ensure all parents can cover the basic costs of raising their children in the face of reduced income and before the new income protection measures can take effect. We have therefore come together to ask you to consider uplifting child benefit by £10 per child per week.

Since 2011 child benefit has been subject to freezes and sub-inflationary uprating,  which the letter goes on to say, means that more than half the suggested £10 increase would simply restore its value to 2010.   

According to the Child Poverty Action Group, a £10 child benefit uplift, on top of yesterday’s annual uprating, would reduce child poverty by around 5 percentage points and household poverty by1-2 percentage points, i.e a bigger reduction than is achieved by the £20 increase in universal credit and working tax credit that the Chancellor has announced.

The benefit cap – which limits the total amount of benefit a household can receive - would need to be lifted to enable all families to gain from the £10 child benefit uplift.

Read the letter and full list of signatories here 

Claiming for newborns during coronavirus

Even though General Register Offices remain closed for now, parents can still claim child benefit without having to register their child’s birth first to ensure that they do not miss out, HMRC has confirmed.

First time parents will need to fill in Child Benefit claim form CH2 found online and send it to the Child Benefit Office. If they haven’t registered the birth because of Covid-19, they should add a note with their claim to let HMRC know.

If they already claim Child Benefit, they can complete the form or add their newborn’s details by calling 0300 200 3100. Parents will need a National Insurance number or Child Benefit number.

Child benefit claims can be backdated by up to three months.

Only one person can claim child benefit for a child. For couples with one partner not working or paying National Insurance contributions, making the claim in their name will help protect their state pension.

Angela MacDonald, director general for customer services, HMRC, 'It’s really important that new parents remember to register for child benefit, even during these unprecedented times.

'The increase in child benefit is a boost for family budgets but there’s more to claiming than the payments. We’re encouraging people to claim so they don’t miss out on National Insurance credits that help protect their State Pension. It also helps children to get their National Insurance number automatically at 16.'

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