On 18th June 2020 The Conservative Woman ran a piece by former Conservative Councillor and approved MP candidate Joel Davidson entitled “Bravo, Rashford, now tackle feckless fathers”. The footballer Marcus Rashford had recently run a successful campaign to have free school meals provided to children into the summer months, overturning a previous intention to stop them. Davidson’s suggestion is that we should have a similar campaign to tackle the scourge of fathers who are selfishly abandoning their children and refusing to pay maintenance. It was one of those articles for which a brief remark in the comments stream was not sufficient response. Such ignorance requires a more extended exposé.
I wish to educate Mr Davidson in respect of the finances of the lower socioeconomic order, to which he primarily refers. In particular, he really should be aware that the benefit system has created financial conditions which have incentivised mothers to kick their children’s father out of their home (and, of course, the feminist social and judicial order has made it very easy to do). The Child Maintenance System (CMS) then financially incentivises the mother to press for the children’s minimal contact with their father. Worse still, the benefit and housing duty systems incentivise a woman with low earning potential and without a high earning partner to have a child in the first place.
Before getting to the numbers, though, here are Davidson’s policy suggestions. I’ll resist the temptation to fulminate at his typical white-knight “let’s blame men for everything” perspective; readers can add that for themselves. Here they are,
“Substantially increase the number of enforcement actions taken against parents who don’t pay (child maintenance), from the current paltry total of 50,000 in September 2019 (CMS figures)”
“Father’s benefits to be withheld at source and diverted directly to his children should he refuse to agree an arrangement with the CMS”
“A national awareness campaign focusing on the role of fathers – this must start in schools, and could have significant involvement from celebrities and politicians of all stripes.”
“None of these recommendations is easily enforceable, however, without the father’s name on the birth certificate, something that in the past politicians from both parties have advocated. I suggest it should be mandatory that this information is recorded on the birth certificate.”
Davidson’s suggestion that “father’s benefits be withheld at source” to pay the due maintenance is a typical politician’s soundbite which makes no sense when examined. As we will see, if the father is liable for a substantial maintenance payment then he is probably not receiving benefits, whereas if he is receiving benefits he is probably not liable to pay any substantial amount of maintenance.
But now for the finances, courtesy of the benefit system. I shall compare the following cases,
Case 1: A single, unemployed parent with two children;
Case 2: As Case 1 but with a cohabiting, unemployed partner;
Case 3: As Case 1 but with a cohabiting partner working full time on minimum wage;
Case 4: As Case 1 but with no children (single and unemployed);
Case 5: As Case 1 but with no children and working full time on minimum wage;
Case 6: As Case 1 but the single parent works 16 hours per week on minimum wage and requires 20 hours per week of childcare.
Taking the parent living with the children to be the mother, Cases 4 and 5 can be interpreted as the position of a non-resident father.
The numbers are based in all cases on,
- The Easton district of Bristol;
- Claiming now but previously not claiming;
- Adults in their late 20s or early 30s;
- Two children, where applicable, aged 8 and 11, one boy, one girl;
- Rented accommodation from a private landlord, council or housing association;
- Where there are children, 3 bedrooms;
- Council tax band C;
- No other adults in the accommodation;
- No illness, disability, ESA or caring duties;
- Qualified for JSA (Job Seekers Allowance) or ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) based on NI contributions, unless otherwise stated;
- No childcare expenses unless otherwise stated;
- Did not work 16 hours or more per week in the previous year;
- No savings, and no income except for the stated employment.
Bear in mind throughout that, whilst there are exceptions, in general benefits can be taken to be paid tax-free (unlike earnings).
The benefit calculator can be found here. The benefits for the six cases are given in Tables 1 and 2. Shown separately is the total family income, including earnings (if any). Also shown separately is the effect of child maintenance. The calculator provided by the Child Maintenance System (CMS) is here. The maintenance scenarios I deploy in the examples are as follows.
Assume firstly that the father (taken to be the non-resident parent) works full time at minimum wage. If his children have no overnight stays at his home he is liable to pay £242 pcm (assuming two children). This decreases if his children stay with him, on a sliding scale. If they stay with him for 3 nights per week he will be required to pay £138 pcm. If they stay with him for more than 3 nights per week he is still liable to pay £60 pcm. Why he should be liable to pay anything when he has the children more than the mother is something Mr Davidson might like to explain.
The perverse nature of this system is that a mercenary mother is incentivised to frustrate overnight stays with the father in order to claim the maximum child maintenance. As for Mr Davidson’s suggestion of withholding the father’s benefits – what benefits, Mr Davidson? In this scenario the father does not receive any benefits (see Table 2, Case 5).
However an unemployed father on JSA and universal credit, whose children do not stay with him, is liable to pay only £30 pcm in maintenance. Moreover, if the children ever stay with him, even if it’s only occasionally such as once a month, the CMS calculator says he is not liable for any maintenance. As we shall see, this is simply because his benefits will not allow him to do so. So once again, Joel Davidson’s suggestion of withholding benefits is inapplicable since no child maintenance is due.
The last rows in Tables 1 and 2 give the total income including, or net of, maintenance payments. In Cases 1 and 6, £242 is added to the mother’s income (assuming a working ex); in Case 5, £242 is subtracted from the working father’s net income; and in Case 4 just £30 is subtract from the unemployed father’s income.
Table 1: Benefits and net income per month, Cases 1 to 3. Figures are for the system pre-universal credit (figures in brackets apply under universal credit)
|Benefit||Case 1 Single mother unemployed||Case 2 Unemployed couple||Case 3 Couple, partner works full time|
|Working tax credit||0||0||0|
|Child tax credit||517 (0)||517 (0)||480 (0)|
|Housing benefit (Universal Credit)||676 (1193)||354 (871)||409 (1084)|
|Child benefit||152 (152)||152 (152)||152 (152)|
|Council tax support||137 (137)||137 (137)||0 (14)|
|ESA/JSA||322 (322)||644 (644)||322 (322)|
|Total benefits||1804 (1804)||1804 (1804)||1363 (1572)|
|Total income including net earnings||1804 (1804)||1804 (1804)||2694 (2903)|
|Total income plus/minus CMS||2046 (2046)||1804 (1804)||2694 (2903)|
Table 2: Benefits and net income per month, Cases 4 to 6. Figures are for the system pre-universal credit (figures in brackets apply under universal credit)
|Benefit||Case 4 Ejected man, unemployed||Case 5 Ejected man works full time||Case 6 Single mother works 16 hrs|
|Working tax credit||0||0||698 (0)|
|Child tax credit||0||0||517 (0)|
|Housing benefit (Universal Credit)||392 (479)||0||814 (2044)|
|Child benefit||0||0||152 (152)|
|Council tax support||137 (137)||0||108 (68)|
|Total benefits||851 (938)||0||2289 (2264)|
|Total income including net earnings||851 (938)||1331 (1331)||2894 (2869)|
|Total income plus/minus CMS||821 (908)||1089 (1089)||3136 (3111)|
Let’s draw out the implications of the figures in Tables 1 and 2. Case 1 (unemployed single mother) and case 2 (unemployed cohabiting couple) receive the same in benefits despite there being two adults in the latter case but only one in the former. The couple receives two lots of JSA/ESA, but the extra one (£322 pcm) is simply subtracted from their housing benefit (or universal credit). In other words, if the mother allows an unemployed man to cohabit with her, she faces a reduction in her benefits. For this reason many cohabiting couples pretend not to be cohabiting (and this fraud may also involve the man claiming other benefits to which he is not entitled when cohabiting). Alternatively, if they are to avoid fraud, there is a significant financial incentive for the mother to be unwilling to cohabit, even if the man in question is the father of her children. Mr Davidson please note. In this scenario the father may be kept out of the home by the mother because it is financially beneficial to her to keep him out. It is nothing to do with him, feckless or otherwise. And this comes about because of the benefit system – which is also not the father’s fault – but it is the fault of members of Parliament.
Now compare case 1 (unemployed single mother) with case 3 (cohabiting with a male partner working full time on minimum wage). The benefits received by the mother are again reduced, from £1804 to £1363 pcm (or £1572 under universal credit). This is by no means unreasonable, as there is now a wage coming into the family from the man working full time. His net earnings, assuming minimum wage (£1331), are less than the mother’s total benefits but they now have more money than the mother would have alone – though two adults must live on this not just one. The problem comes if the mother becomes fed up with the father. She might be mindful that her benefits would increase if she kicks him out – and her total income could be further increased if he coughs up the child maintenance (for which he will be liable as he is working). Specifically, if she kicks dad out and prevents the children staying with him, she can get a total income of £2046 pcm rather than the £1363 (or £1572) she gets with him in the house. If the first flush of romantic love has waned, if there is scant prospect the man will ever earn more than minimum wage – and especially if mum has a new man ready to wheel into the picture – then she is strongly financially incentivised to kick him out. Thanks to our feminist state, this has been made very easy to accomplish.
Are you following this, Mr Davidson, or am I going too fast for you?
Cases 4 and 5 refer to the father who has left, or been ejected from, the family home and is now living alone. Case 4 shows why the unemployed man is not required to pay any substantial amount of child maintenance. His benefits are calculated to be barely enough to survive (£821, or £908 under universal credit). Note that, even without maintenance payments, the now-single mother receives about twice as much in benefits as he does (Case 1, £1804) as a result of being the parent “in possession of” the children.
Case 5 refers to a father who is now living alone but working full time on minimum wage. He receives no benefits, but will be liable to pay child maintenance. His net income is just £1089 pcm after paying maintenance. Note how little this differs from the unemployed man. But also note that the unemployed, and now single, mother gets a total of £2046 pcm in benefits and maintenance, i.e., nearly twice as much as the father. To put that another way, the mother gets an extra £957 pcm for the two children. But she is not in paid employment whilst the man is working 40 hours per week, perhaps at some arduous manual labour.
One may rationalise this to some extent in terms of the larger accommodation required for two children. But this reveals another pernicious aspect of the whole system. If the father is to have the children stay with him at all, even if only once a fortnight, he needs equivalent sleeping facilities. The impossibility of affording such accommodation can be what prevents overnight stays with the father, and hence prevents a meaningful ongoing paternal relationship and also locks the father into maximum maintenance payments and hence ensures he can never afford better accommodation.
It’s all much worse than this in truth. I’m illustrating the financial issues only for those who are unemployed or on minimum wage. But I have known fathers who are professors who cannot, after divorce, afford accommodation with a spare bedroom and hence were prevented for years from having even one child stay with them overnight.
Keeping up, are you Mr Davidson? The system your fellow politicians have created drives fatherlessness and that has implications far worse than the monetary issues we are addressing here. Whilst there undoubtedly are feckless men, it is not fecklessness which is the endemic problem. The endemic problem has been created by the feminist state and its white knight enablers. That’ll be you, Mr Davidson.
Finally, I invite you to compare Cases 5 and 6. Case 5 is the lone-living father (possibly chucked out by the mother), working 40 hours per week on minimum wage. Case 6 is the now-single mother living with her two children and working just 16 hours per week, and assumed to be paying for 20 hours childcare to enable her to work. He is paying her £242 pcm in maintenance. His net income is £1089 pcm, whereas hers is £3111 (or slightly more in the legacy system). She will be paying about £428 in childcare, but her benefits have been increased by almost exactly this amount because she has declared childcare – so the childcare is essentially state funded indirectly via the existing benefits.
The mother, who may have kicked the father out of the house, is getting a net income nearly three times his, despite his working 40 hours per week – perhaps at some God-awful manual labour – while she works just 16 hours per week. He will be paying both income tax and national insurance. She will be paying neither due to her lower earnings, but she will be receiving national insurance “stamps”, just as she received national insurance credits when she was not working.
To earning a net income of £3,111 pcm, the same as the mother in Case 6 who works just 16 hours per week on minimum wage, you would need a gross annual salary of £49,544. This compares with the UK median income of about £30,000, and a mean of about £36,000 (ONS data). Someone with a gross salary of £49,544 would be paying £12,212 in income tax and national insurance. The mother working 16 hours in Case 6 would pay no income tax or national insurance.
Even the single mother in case 1, assuming she receives maintenance, is netting the same income as a person on a gross salary of £30,750, which exceeds the national median income.
But even if, in the worst case, the unemployed single mother in Case 1 failed to receive any child maintenance, so her net income was £1804 pcm, this is the net income that would be earned by someone on a gross salary of £26,480, which is not so far below the UK median income. There are many people with earnings comparable to this, or less, who have to support two adults as well as children, with no benefits. Yet this single mother needs to support only one adult, herself, plus two children.
I suggest that if any of the single mothers envisaged in these scenarios did not have sufficient money to feed their children, then the fault must lie with them, not with their income.
As for the men – especially those who have been ejected from their family home against their wishes, perhaps with the assistance of false allegations, they are clearly the ones in these examples with grounds for complaint. And their justified complaints go way beyond the merely financial. But they will not be attracting your attention, will they, Mr Davidson?
Any two-parent family receiving no benefits and reliant on one parent working full time but with a gross income less than the median of £30,000, has grounds for complaint. They are paying large amounts into the exchequer in taxes to subsidise the single parent who is unemployed or only working 16 hours per week, whilst being little better off, and perhaps worse off, themselves. This how the two-parent, single income family has been massively disadvantaged by a system which encourages single parenthood, and hence fatherlessness, at every turn.
Have you understood yet, Mr Davidson? Are you ashamed yet for being so ill-informed as to blame feckless fathers for a system designed by your fellow politicians to produce single parents?
You may not like horses, Mr Davidson, but it still makes no sense to continue to flog them after they are deceased. And it is an especially distasteful thing to do when you – or your fellow politicians (of all stripes) – are responsible for the deaths of the creatures in the first place.