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Family Fortunes are in Freefall - The Chancellor Must Act

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With the Budget now just days away the families that we work with are waiting with baited breath to see if the Chancellor will throw their finances a lifeline or push them further beneath the waves.

There's been lots of noise from the children and family sector over the last few weeks calling for George Osborne to protect family budgets.

We've had our very own Family Fortunes report which included a wealth of experiences and research into the fragile state of the finances of the families we work with. We've also had the Child Poverty Action Group's Save Child Benefit Campaign and Gingerbread, Daycare Trust and Save the Children's Mums United report.

The findings we striking in their similarity - parents are finding it increasingly difficult to provide for their children and safeguard their futures and balancing the books is harder than ever.

And we all want the same thing - George Osborne needs to take urgent action to give parents the lift they need so they can secure their children's future fortunes.

The Chancellor was caught red handed raiding family budgets by the Institute for Fiscal Studies the other day. They proved that tax and benefit changes in 2012/13 will hit households with children the hardest. Figures from Usdaw show that working families could lose nearly £4000 in working tax credits if a couple don't increase their combined working hours to 24 rather than the 16 they work at the moment. The Mums United report shows that 150,000 of the UK's poorest single working mothers could lose up to £68 a week under the new Universal Credit, pushing a quarter of a million children deeper into poverty. 'Second earners' - most of whom are also mums - also stand to lose up to £1800 a year.

There was more bad news last week for families looking for more hours when official statistics showed that part-time employment rose by 59,000 to 6.6 million and full-time employment fell 50,000. The number of people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job increased by 110,000 to its highest level since records began in 1992.

These are big sums for families. And the loss of these amounts from family budgets will send parents into despair. For many these losses will be the difference between making work pay, putting food on the table and balancing the bills.

That's why we're continuing to call for the Chancellor to be a family man in the Budget on Wednesday. We want to see his reverse course and protect families, and invest in children's futures. Our Family Fortunes parents sent a clear message to the Chancellor to:

  1. Keep child benefit and keep it universal - child benefit is an essential part of income for both the squeezed middle and families on the breadline;
  2. Improve help with childcare to make work pay - restoring the proportion of childcare costs paid for by Working Tax Credit from 70 to 80% would provide vital extra pounds for struggling families as well as make work pay;
  3. Reverse Tax Credit Cuts - with a lack of jobs and childcare, the planned cut to Tax Credits for working couple families to make couples work 24 rather than 16 hours between them in April 2012 should be scrapped, especially given the poor labour market and lack of jobs.
  4. Tackle fuel poverty to relieve intense pressure on family budgets - including by scrapping housing benefit caps that will force families to move to cheaper but poorly insulated accommodation
  5. Uprate Benefits Annually - As previously promised the government should also continue to uprate benefits for those in and out of work at least in line with the Consumer Prices Index annually, to ensure their rates keep pace with price increases.
And while we know that some of these recommendations from families will cost money - we think they are a smart investment which will save money in the long term by getting parents into work and cutting the benefit bill and protecting children's future fortunes.

With all eyes on the Treasury, this week is set to be a milestone for families. The Chancellor could break the bank for many families. We hope he'll listen and protect their future fortunes.

George its over to you...

You can tweet the Chancellor your messages by joining Family Action's #OiGeorge campaign.

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