CHILD benefit has been slashed by up to €240 a year per child – meaning a family with four children will lose out by €696 under swingeing cuts.
The monthly payments have been cut by between €10 and €20 per child, depending on how many are in the family.
For the first two children, the rate is being cut from €140 to €130 each a month.
It will drop from €148 to €130 for the third child, and from €160 to €140 for the fourth and each subsequent child.
The Government said it will save €136m a year, but that it would provide additional money for low-income working families, including an extra €14m for after-school childcare places.
Higher child benefit payments for twins, triplets and other multiple births will not be affected beyond the general rate cuts despite pre-Budget speculation they would be axed.
But back-to-school allowances will also be cut by up to 33pc per child, with the rate for primary pupils down from €150 to €100 and the rate for secondary pupils down from €250 to €200.
The group Protest Against Cuts to Child Benefit (PACUB) said children would go cold and hungry as a result of these cuts.
Spokesperson Niamh Ui Cheallaigh, who has five children, said the child benefit cuts would cost her €78 a month, adding up to €936 in the year.
"It feels like the most savage attack possible on children and families and it's another broken promise from Labour," she said.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said spending on child benefit was over €2bn a year, or 10pc of the social welfare budget. She added it was impossible to avoid reductions, even though her preference would have been to tax it.
"The child benefit rates also compare very favourable with the rates payable in Northern Ireland. A woman in Blanchardstown is still getting €130 in child benefit compared with a woman in Belfast who gets just €108.24," she said.
Some €14m of the savings on child benefit would go towards funding 6,000 new after-school places for primary pupils from low-income families, beginning with a pilot scheme early next year.
The Children's Rights Alliance said the cuts were devastating for families.
"Each cut on its own is detrimental, but accumulatively these cuts are devastating. In its eagerness to finance a dead banking system, the Government is killing our future," said its chief executive Tanya Ward.