This Forecast in-depth page has been updated with information available at the time of the November 2023 Economic and fiscal outlook. We are aware of a technical issue with our tableau charts across the site. Access the data from our March 2023 forecast and our November 2023 forecast supplementary tables directly.

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 4.2 per cent of total welfare spending in 2023-24.

In our November 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 £12.5 billion in the UK in 2023-24. We project spending to increase to £13.2 billion in 2028-29. This would represent 1.0 per cent of total public spending, and 0.4 per cent of GDP. Child benefit recipients are forecast to receive an average of £1070 for each child 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 up by an average £0.7 billion a year between 2025-26 and 2027-28 due to more persistent inflation increasing uprating.

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