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Poles apart

Welfare payments to the parents of non-resident children fly in the face of logic

'If Britain gets our taxpayers, shouldnt it also pay their benefits?' demands Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski Photo:
Rex Features

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By Telegraph View
8:19PM GMT 06 Jan 2014

One aspect of our benefits system that many people find utterly bewildering is that we pay child benefit to children who are not living in this country. This has become even more difficult to defend since the payment was withdrawn from higher earners, the very people who fund most of the welfare budget through their taxes. Somewhat late in the day since this has been an issue for almost a decade the Government has decided to take a stand. I dont think it is right and it is something I want to change, David Cameron said at the weekend. However, the Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, has denounced this as unfair. If Britain gets our taxpayers, shouldnt it also pay their benefits? he said. This misses the point of child benefit: it is a payment specifically made to defray the additional costs of bringing up a family. In which case, if it is to be paid at all for children living abroad, should it not

be at the same rate that applies in the country where the child lives? The equivalent benefit in Poland is worth around 20 a month, whereas here it is 81.20 for the first child and 53.60 for any others. This isnt even fair to Polish taxpayers, let alone British. If a builder comes to the UK, leaving his family behind, then his children will qualify for benefits worth four times the amount paid to a Polish family living next door, even though their outgoings are the same. It is generally assumed that there is an EU directive requiring this country to pay benefits to non-resident children yet the basis on which they are made depends upon entitlement rules which differ across the EU, and most member states do not pay benefits to non-nationals living in another country. It should not, therefore, require a complex set of treaty negotiations to change this nonsensical situation.
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