Express-watch: Soft touch journalists.
Screaming "SOFT TOUCH BRITAIN", the Express claims that migrants are now claiming £21m in benefits for their children that are back in Poland. Thing is, I've looked for the statistics that the story is apparently based on, and I can't find any that have been released in the last couple of days that are relevant, unless I've missed them somewhere. There's none on the HM Revenue and Customs website, which the Express claims issued them, the National Statistics site, or the Treasury website, so I can't check on their accuracy.
This however isn't by any means a new story. It's been rehearsed twice before, back in September last year, then raised again in December, presumably when the last new statistics were released. The only difference is that the figures keep rising, again because the immigrants who have came over here are becoming more aware of their right if they're paying tax and making national insurance contributions to claim child benefit and also tax credits. Last time this was raised by the tabloids I emailed the child benefit office themselves, who despite taking two months to reply, explained that the EU rules governing such benefit payments mean that the state in which the claimant works in, whether they're a citizen or not, is responsible for providing the benefit. In other words, if you or I had children and left them here while we went to work in Poland, we'd be able to apply for their equivalent of child benefit, which the Express helpfully explains works out at roughly £10 a month. Our scheme, which is more generous for obvious reasons, works out at £18.10 for the first child a week, and another £12.10 for every other sibling. Doubtless the more rabid newspapers in Poland, if this were happening there, would be demanding immediate changes also.
Anyway, let's have a quick look through the more salient or dubious points of the article:
The huge drain on Treasury coffers provoked outrage, with warnings that the sum is bound to rocket even higher as the latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs do not include child tax credit.
To put this into perspective, around £90bn is spent each year on the NHS. £21m is hardly a drop in the ocean in government spending.
Senior Tory MP Andrew Selous, Shadow Minister for Family Welfare, said: “This shows there is a need for a serious reassessment of this aspect of the welfare state. “The Government still refuses to answer how much child tax credit is paid to migrant workers whose children live abroad. “It has shown no leadership or political will in trying to sort out this issue. We want this money spent on dealing with child poverty at home.”
The same thing the Tories said last time. I took the liberty of previously working out exactly how much the money would be worth to each child if it was directly redistributed to the number of children living in relative poverty. It would have amount to slightly less than £5. Even with the increase this time round, it's hardly going to change their lives.
The explosion in child benefit claims follows fresh evidence that the mass influx from Eastern Europe shows little sign of slowing down. A record 1.3 million Poles travelled to Britain last year, six times the figure before Poland joined the EU.
Err, except these figures are based on the tourist figures, not the immigration figures which detail those who have applied for a national insurance number so they can work here.
Polish official Agnieszka Zablocka, from Gdansk, told the BBC that Britain operates a “pay now, check later” welfare system.
Actually, the onus is on the Polish themselves to check that the children exist, under the EU rules, although applicants can be required to present the birth certificate of the child. Perhaps Zablocka ought to get on with those checks?
Little of the above really matters though. The article's job is already done. Rather than contributing to the economy, regardless of what they're taking out in benefits that any other taxpayer would also both demand and expect, with previous figures suggesting that 84% of migrant workers were not claiming any benefits whatsoever, with tiny numbers on unemployment benefit or income support, immigrants are variously raising the crime rate, taking money away from our children, training children to rob us so they can build palaces back in their own countries, and err, not spending enough when they come here on holiday. The only real question is what the Express would do if the government were decide tomorrow to shut the borders completely. Probably suffer a collective nervous breakdown.