Politically Speaking column in the Wakefield Express

“When they cut my tax credits, I will be better off not working. Surely they should be helping me to keep my job?” Words, from a young parent I met last Friday, haunted me all weekend.

At the Stanley Children’s Centre, I heard from Alex, Ben, Chelsea, Robyn, Sammy, Shiree and Zonita, a group of young parents, supported by Barnardo’s, who get together regularly to discuss how to make things easier for other young parents.

And so that’s what we talked about. The Sure Start Maternity Grant; which had given them a bit of money to buy a few essentials for their babies. The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which had covered their travel costs to college. And tax credits, which under new proposals, will make them better off not working.

Robyn told me, “If I cannot get a job or further my education, what example is this setting my children?” I could not explain to her why the EMA has been abolished when it encouraged young people to continue their education.

And it’s a mystery why tax credits are being changed meaning couples on low incomes could lose up to £73 a week unless they work an extra 8 hours a week. As Alex said to me on Friday, “It’s all well and good them saying we should just ask for more hours. But where I work there are no more hours, their budgets are stretched as it is!”

There’s nothing more disheartening than having a young person tell you they have to give up on training or work. Yet the reality of changes being introduced is that they many families will be better off that way.

Can you believe it? Young people, with their whole future in front of them, with a child or children to support, who’ve found a training course, apprenticeship or job, even in these tough times. And now they’re being made better off not working, and not training.

Yet while Alex contemplates handing in her notice on her apprenticeship to save £73 a week, the Government is considering cutting the 50p income tax rate for those earning over £150,000. How can that be the priority now? That is why I have said that any money raised from tackling tax avoidance of stamp duty on homes worth over £1 million should be used to stop these tax credit changes in their tracks.

For young parents, things are already tough. They need a helping hand to get on not more obstacles. Tax credits, EMA, Sure Start Maternity Grants, Children’s Centres all helped. All have been scrapped or are now under threat. In politics there are always choices. I’d back support for the young parents of Wakefield any day.

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Posted March 16th, 2012 by Ed