Tug-o-war over child benefit at the National Convention
It doesn’t have to be either-or. We can afford both increased child benefit and better family welfare schemes, a minority in Norwegian Labour’s upbringing committee believes.
“I do not recommend pitting an increase in child allowance against universal welfare schemes, Leader of the Fellesforbundet Trade Union,” Mimmi Kvisvik. She is the Leader of the committee which proposes an updated upbringing policy for Labour next week.
The committee is divided in its view of child benefit. A minority, fronted by Kvisvik, wants to increase it – while the majority will rather spend the money on other welfare schemes. Labours’ National Convention will consider the matter in April.
Kvisvik rejects that it will be expensive if the state is to increase both the child benefit and, at the same time, invest in other benefits. Those benefits include two hours of free activity after-school, which is one of the committee’s other proposals.
“The smartest investment we can make – is investing in children and upbringing. It will be terribly expensive in the long run not to do so,” she opinionates.
More than NOK 1,500 a month
Increased child benefit is one of several measures against child poverty, Kvisvik asserts.
“The main grip on poverty is to make sure people obtain and keep jobs. There will always be some who fails to do so. In that case, we must focus on that youngsters do not suffer from it,” the Committee Leader continues.
She wants to increase the child allowance in line with the rise in prices from 1996. The rate has remained stable at NOK 970 per child per month until March 1st. Then it increases slightly, to NOK 1,054, as a result of the Christian Democrats (KrF) won a small victory on this during the budget negotiations this autumn. Single parents get a bit more. A price adjustment from the 1996 level would mean a payout of approximately NOK 1,550 per child per month (a 50% increase).
The Committee Leader from Lillesand believes that the money for families with children can be better spent on other measures – than on an increased child benefit.
“I would rather spend a billion on school lunch than NOK 83 more a month on child benefit,” Kroglund tells NTB.
She is part of the majority of the committee. They don’t want to abolish the child benefit scheme but to keep the rate as it is today.
In the debate on child benefit, it has been argued that NOK thousand per child per month is becoming less and less worth. Kroglund, however, admits that every penny can count:
“Cash benefits work for persons with low income, it forms part of a good safety net.”
Instead of spending even more money on cash benefits, the county leader from Agder rather wishes to spend money on universal services, such as after-school activities and kindergartens.
In reality, I hope it is important for people in Labour to ensure common activities and early efforts, she hopes. She crosses her fingers that the National Convention will support her view.
No assessment of need
Neither Kroglund nor Kvisvik wishes for assessment of need regarding child allowance, ie doling it out to the neediest only.
“The strength of the universal welfare schemes is exactly that. They are universal and not assessed for need. It also provides popular support for the schemes,” Kvisvik points out.
The committee agrees that the municipality must disregard the child benefit when calculating how much social assistance a family is to receive. In some municipalities, the child benefit is counted as income. Leading to a reduction in social assistance for those in need of such.
The upbringing committee is one of four committees that Labour has set down to develop policies. Proposals have already been made in the areas of migration, working life and district politics. All of which will be dealt with by the National Convention in April.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today