On not recognising polygamous marriages in the welfare system

At the time they stated: \”Where there is a valid polygamous marriage the claimant and one spouse will be paid the couple rate … The amount payable for each additional spouse is presently £33.65.\”

This has subsequently been increased to £38.45 a week for second and subsequent spouses, while the husband and his first wife are paid the ordinary couple rate of £105.95.

As well as income support, a husband with more than one wife is also eligible for possible housing benefit and council tax relief because of the larger property needed to accommodate his family.

OK, so they\’re going to do away with this system. Apparently it applies to some 1,000 families in the country (where valid polygamous marriages have been contracted abroad and then a subsequent move to the UK).

Shrug. 1,000 families is less than a rounding error in the system.

Under the new system of Universal Credit, which will replace all mean-tested benefits from next year, polygamous marriages will not be recognised at all.

Instead, a husband and one wife will claim as a couple – with any other adults living in the household claiming as single people.

And that\’s the new system.

Now, the benefits system is of such awesome complexity that I have no idea of the answer to the next question(s).

Will this actually reduce the benefits bill?

Imagine the maximum Moslem family possible: one man, four women. We\’re moving from one couple plus three extras to one couple plus three single people. This may or may not mean more paid in benefits, less paid, I dunno.

Now move it to the more likely situation: those religious enough to have such a multiple marriage are likely religious enough to be fruitful and multiply. So in fact we\’re moving to a system of one married couple with children and three single parents with children. All of whom get to make their own claims on the welfare system independently. As we are quite deliberately and specifically not recognising the specific circumstances of the polygynous marriage.

Is this going to save money? That\’s not the only lens through which to view the decision, of course, but will it actually save money?

Given the way the system does pay out for single parent families I have my doubts but does anyone actually know?

9 comments on “On not recognising polygamous marriages in the welfare system

  1. They seem to be talking about “Income Support” (or income-based JobSeekers). So, for that benefit alone if you assume your maximum case, at least one child per wife, and that they are treated as one family, therefore only get one set of “Family Premium”, you’ll get a total of £238.70 pw.

    However, with the same assumption but splitting them into one family and 3 single mothers, the total rises to £378.05 pw.

    Child Benefit bills will rise as each mother is now entitled to the higher rate for the first child – an increase of £20.70 pw taking the whole ‘household’ into account (any subsequent children per mother would already be being paid at the lower rate, therefore this policy wouldn’t result in any difference.)

    Assuming they live together, the Housing Benefit won’t be affected, as this should be based on the actual rent paid rather than a per-family allowance.

    No idea how this would affect other benefits, really. And this is based on my utterly simplistic understand of the system.

  2. Sorry, so that’s another £8322 per year to the family – a total of £23882 from Income Support and Child Benefit.

  3. Hang on Tim, an unmarried young lady claiming benefit may well lose it if she is seen to be “co-habiting”, no ? (Used to be known as the sex rule, I think)

    So extra wives being treated as single women may not qualify under these rules, as they have a sexual partner ? Or am I harking back to the 60s rules here ?

    Alan Douglas

  4. Hang on. Does a single mum get full income support if she lives with her parents / other family members / a flatmate? Surely the rule can’t be that you lose your benefit if you’re shagging the bloke you live with but not if you don’t…?

  5. john b, I’ve certainly read that at one point one branch of the government was trying to prove that people were living together and shagging (to reduce their tax credits) whilst another branch was trying to prove that people weren’t living together and shagging (to deny the spouse exemption for inheritance tax and CGT).

    A funny old world, and it might even be true.

  6. But if this change is to be part of the grand IDS welfare reform cop-out, do we even know yet what the new system is going to be for non-polygamous households?

  7. Does a single mum get full income support if she lives with her parents / other family members / a flatmate?

    Well, Miss SE, albeit unsprogged, is, pending various computers deciding she isn’t a paedo, on income-based JSA and staying at home. They don’t take anything off her for our incomes.

    “Only one person in a family can claim Income Support at any one time”, yet the point of this announcement was treating them not as “a family”. The devil, as usual, will be in the detail.

    Interestingly, as they are no longer “one family”, their benefits may well not be aggregated when calculating the “benefit cap”.

  8. It all depends on whether they are treated as one household or several households.
    In normal English they are one household. What the bureaucrats decide from the legal jargon is ….???
    (Multiple households get more than a single household)

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