Just say no?
I often can't quite work out whether I am being hopelessly naive or very sensible indeed.
Right now, I am puzzled at the mess that the government has got into with Child Benefit. I thought that we had always been told that making Child Benefit anything other than "universal" was going to lead to trouble -- and indeed was going to cost, in administration etc, more than it saved. And this is exactly what is now happening -- with all the unfairnesses that are bound to creep in when you establish, more or less, arbitrary boundaries.
It seems, for example, absolutely clear that on earnings between £50k and 60k you will have to go through all kinds of calculations about paying money into pension funds etc, to maximise your take-home income. A field day for any "financial adviser" -- which is just the sort of field day of financial ingenuity that I thought we were trying to put a stop to!
But dont let's forget that you do actually have to apply for Child Benefit. It doesn't just magically arrive in your bank account as soon as the baby is born.
Why not try a little advertising campaign that asks people to claim only if they need it. And why not make it clear on the application form that you dont actually HAVE to apply? Appeal to people's better nature: "Only apply for this benefit if you need it".
OK, I know the objections. I know that people's nature may turn out not to be "better" -- and that you may add to the admin charge if people changed their minds all the time (because you could hardly say that once refused, it could never be claimed again, whatever your change in circs). And I know that some of those who do need it will imagine they dont, and so not claim. But surely it might be worth a try.
The same goes for the Winter Fuel Allowance. I cant remember how the husband (who is over 60) started to receive this, but certainly there was never any suggestion that one just filled in the form. (If a governemnt brown envelope comes through the letter box, one is rather programmed to be obedient and fill it in).
If a form arrived and said "if you need winter fuel allowance" fill this in, we wouldn't dream of doing so. And that would probably be better than now diverting it to some good cause.