Burton drops big hint on child benefit cut
SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton has given the strongest hint yet that child benefit will be cut in the Budget.
Ms Burton also admitted she's looking at a two-tier system for child benefit, with higher payments for lower earners and those relying on social welfare payments.
She told the Dail she would like to see weekly welfare payments, such as the dole, pension and carer's allowances protected, but this will only be confirmed on Budget Day.
However, child benefit, which costs €2bn annually, is a monthly payment and does not fall into this bracket, putting it in Ms Burton's firing line.
The Programme for Government committed Fine Gael and Labour to maintaining basic social welfare rates -- such as the dole and old age pension -- and not raising income tax.
Ms Burton (pictured) again repeated that promise, but Fianna Fail social protection spokesman Willie O'Dea pressed her in the Dail yesterday on what exactly was meant by "core payments".
While claiming no decisions have been made, Ms Burton indicated pensioners will be protected at all costs.
An advisory group to the minister has already recommended a cut of €40 per month to child benefit, to bring it down from €140 to €100.
Ms Burton needs to bring her department's spending down by €540m in the Budget, and the cuts suggested by the advisory group would save €200m.
The prospect of giving a top-up payment to poorer parents has also been floated.
"Given the amount we are spending on this and on a number of other social welfare payments, the question has been for some time, 'is there a way of targeting some of this money in a better way to families who are poor in work, or out of work on social welfare benefits?'" she said.
But she added that "no decision is finalised until it is finalised at the Cabinet table".