Letter: Better benefits

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The Independent Online
From Ms Anna Coote

Sir: Does Tony Blair really want to means test child benefit (report, 28 September)? The arguments against it are surely too persuasive. Means testing is costly to administer, divisive, helps to trap families in dependency and often misses its targets. Even in better-off families, many women who are not the main earners are short of cash to buy essentials for their children.

But if people really are offended by payouts to the wealthy, could we try a different way of tackling this problem: continue to pay child benefit on a universal basis, but pilot a new scheme that offers recipients the option of assigning their benefit - either to a children's charity or back to the Treasury. It would be relatively simple and cheap, it would encourage altruism and choice, and it would enhance rather than detract from the co-operative spirit of the welfare state.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Coote

Deputy Director

Institute for Public

Policy Research

London, WC2

28 September