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?