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Osborne’s Autumn Statement ‘discourages marriage’

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has been criticised by a conservative think tank for discouraging marriage.

In last week’s Autumn Statement, Osborne announced some adjustments to tax credit levels. These are benefits paid for by the government to people who qualify based on circumstances such as income or if they have children.

A report from the Marriage Foundation claimed that the changes would increase what they called a “couple penalty” in the benefit system. The ‘penalty’ stems from the fact that, in certain circumstances, couples can end up paying a higher rate of tax if they are living together than they would apart.

A family with two children where the mother earns around £10,000 a year and the father earns £25,000 a year would end up losing £9,417 annually as a result of the proposed adjustments if the parents lived together, the report predicts.

Not only would this put couples off the idea of living together, the report said, it “specifically discourages marriage”.

Harry Benson is the Marriage Foundation’s research director. He said that the measures failed Prime Minister David Cameron’s so-called family test for all new legislation “at the first hurdle”.

Despite Cameron citing this very issue as a reason to introduce the family test in the first place, the Autumn Statement had done “nothing to rectify this perverse situation”, Mr Benson added.

A spokesperson for the government responded by saying the state “should do everything possible to support and strengthen family life” and promised that the budget for relationship support would be almost doubled in the next financial year.

Last month, the government announced that free relationship counselling would be available for new parents in order to reduce instances of family breakdown.

The Marriage Foundation was set up in 2012 by former High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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