When the Chancellor opens his red box today, he must avoid delivering a 'Break-Up Budget' - with painful blows to household finances that could put family life under threat.
In our capacity as a charity that champions UK families, we have been calling on George Osborne to ensure family life is protected in the Budget 2012.
Families are deeply anxious over the government's austerity programme. Having children has of course always been expensive. But in January 2012 we released research showing that those with children are being disproportionately affected by the government's dramatic changes to the tax and benefits system. The report revealed that a couple with two children would be £1,250 a year worse off by 2015, with their income falling by 4.2% from 2010 to 2015, compared to just 0.9% for UK households overall.
The raft of painful measures hitting those with children include changes to tax credits, the scrapping of the Child Trust Fund, the much-feared housing cap, and the end of universal Child Benefit. In times of austerity, everyone takes a financial hit. But those with children are being made to shoulder a disproportionate burden.
It is particularly surprising to see that some of the most vulnerable groups - such as families with new babies and lone parents out of work- are bearing the brunt of the tax and benefit reforms. Many families have been left struggling to understand why they have been singled out in this way and how this sits alongside the government's ambition for the UK to become a family friendly nation.
Financial pressures can increase conflict within couples, contributing to relationship breakdown. Statistics released at the end of 2011 showed divorces in England and Wales increasing for the first time in eight years. It is tragic to see the consequences of this financial pressure on families beginning to emerge.
As a society we need to do all that we can to promote stable couple relationships, which children and all members of a family benefit from.
The Chancellor has taken so much away from family pockets. Now it's time for him to give something back. The Budget 2012 must be one which strengthens family life. It can't be a Break-Up Budget.
There has understandably been much focus on how plans to take away Child Benefit for those earning £43,000 or more will create an injustice for single earner families, and whether Mr Osborne will address this injustice. A family with a single breadwinner on £43,000 stands to lose the benefit - while a family with two working parents on a combined income of almost £80,000 stands to keep it.
There have been reports that Mr Osborne may raise the £43,000 bar to £50,000. But regardless of where the government sets the bar, the fundamental decision to end universal Child Benefit sends an alarming message that families with children are no longer to be prioritised.
The fact that Mr Osborne is likely to deliver a tax break to high earners in the same Budget that he delivers further blows to families is a sign of where priorities lie. Families are the bedrock of our society and children are its future. Stable families generate the UK economy as both workers and consumers. But it looks like the Budget 2012 will be a missed opportunity to redress the balance for families.
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