April 7, 2014

I was surprised to read in a new piece about Bounty (the organisation that distributes those “bounty” packs to new mothers) that HMRC are still paying them – a commercial company – £90,000 a year to distribute child benefit application forms.  Didn’t we deal with this?  The Telegraph investigated it last May and there was a petition against the practice of the company being allowed to visit maternity units at all but at the same time a call to email David Gauke asking him to end HMRC’s relationship with Bounty (scroll down to the comments).

I have no knowledge of whether the “Bounty” packs are a good thing or not (except that I never realised “bounty” was the name of a commercial company – I had heard the term “bounty pack” for years and had taken it for its literal meaning of  a bonus or gift – I thought they were the NHS’ gift to newborns!)  But I am pretty certain that giving a commercial firm legitimacy by allowing them to distribute child benefit forms is a bad thing.  Don’t get me wrong, they can add them to the packs if they like – but they’re a commercial company.  It should be up to them to decide whether or not they want to obtain supplies of the forms from HMRC and stick them in the packs.  HMRC shouldn’t be giving them ninety grand of our money for doing so.  Give the responsibility instead to registrars; there shouldn’t be any need for one arm of the government to pay another arm of the government for doing something desirable in the first place, should there?  Isn’t THAT what we mean by “joined up government”?  So when someone comes to register a birth they should automatically be handed a form to apply for child benefit.  In fact, if we’re in “tell us once” mode, why can’t a registered birth also be a registered claim for a universal benefit?

Just a thought!

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