Some Forecasts in-depth pages have not been updated for the latest forecast. We will endeavour to update them as soon as possible.

The Treasury manages public spending within two ‘control totals’ of about equal size:

  • departmental expenditure limits (DELs) – mostly covering spending on public services, grants and administration (collectively termed ‘resource’ spending) and investment (‘capital’ spending). These are items that can be planned over extended periods.
  • annually managed expenditure (AME) – categories of spending less amenable to multi-year planning, such as social security spending and debt interest.

Welfare spending is the biggest source of AME spending. Child benefit is expected to account for 4.3 per cent of total welfare spending in 2023-24.

In our March 2023 Economic and fiscal outlook we designated welfare spending into broad recipient groups. Forecasts for individual benefits are available in supplementary table 3.7 on our website.

Child benefit is a cash payment payable for each child in a family. Historically, it provided universal support for parents or guardians bringing up children, but since 2013 it has been subject to a tax charge for those earning over £50,000.

Child benefit spending is forecast to be £12.6 billion in the UK in 2023-24. We project spending to increase to £12.5 billion in 2027-28. This would represent around 1 per cent of total public spending, and 0.4 per cent of GDP. Child benefit recipients are forecast to receive an average of £1070 each in 2023-24.

  Previous forecasts

The major downward revision in our July 2015 forecast (peaking at £0.7 billion in 2019-20) was due to a four-year freeze on child benefits announced at the Summer Budget. The downward revision in March 2020 (peaking at £0.6 billion in 2023-24) was due mostly to methodological changes, whereas the downward revision in October 2021 (peaking at £0.3 billion in 2021-22) was largely due to lower-than-expected take-up.

The upward revisions in both the March 2022 and November 2022 forecasts (each peaking at £0.5 billion in 2024-25) were due to the effects of higher-than-expected inflation. Our most recent forecast was revised down by £0.2 billion in each of the final two years of the forecast due to lower inflation reducing uprating and higher earnings increasing the number of parents paying the high income child benefit tax charge or opting out.

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