Split child benefit “unfair to mothers”

When parents are going through a separation, an application from one of them should suffice to ensure that the child benefits are split between them.

That’s the proposal from Social Minister Berit Andnor which has brought fierce criticism not just from the Moderates and Left Party, but also from Andnor’s own colleagues in the Social Democratic Party.

Child benefits have been paid to the mother since the scheme was introduced in Sweden in 1948. Now the government wants to replace that with a gender-neutral policy.

The money should go to the parent nominated by both of them, defaulting to the mother if no special application is made.

But the proposal is proving controversial – and may not be supported in parliament – thanks to a clause which says that the parents should be able to split the benefits if they separate and the child lives with both alternately.

In that case, assuming the living arrangements have already been agreed by the parents or laid down by a court, only one parent need make the application.

Of the 1.9 million children in Sweden, 500,000 live with parents who have separated. 92,000 children alternate between the separated parents.

The Green Party supports the government’s proposal but the Left Party, whose support is probably needed if the idea is to become policy, says that both parents should be required to sign an application for split benefits.

“We don’t want to give one parent the right of veto,” said Berit Andnor after presenting the proposal to the parliamentary group on Tuesday.

She said she agrees with the Left Party’s view that the costs should be divided between the parents but argued that it is up to the local council to decide.

Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt backed up the Left Party’s criticism.

The proposal is unfair to the partner who is financially weakest – usually the woman – he said.

“There are women who are separated from men with alcohol problems who, with this, could be forced to receive half the child benefit in order to finance continued alcohol abuse,” said Reinfeldt.

Reinfeldt was supported by the Social Democrat member of parliament Carina Hägg, who wants the government to wait until more facts are known about who pays the most for their children. She believes it is the mothers.

“As a social democrat woman I must support the financially weaker party,” she said.

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TT/The Local