SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton has scotched suggestions that individual child benefit payments could be scrapped to fund extra childcare places.
She was responding after Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald questioned the monthly payments, suggesting the money would be better spent on childcare.
But Ms Burton's spokesman said the minister, while agreeing with Ms Fitzgerald that extra childcare places were needed, was committed to universal payments.
Ms Burton is expected to take the first steps to taxing child benefit in the new year.
Ms Fitzgerald pointed out that the Government is spending €2bn – 10pc of the welfare budget – on child benefit.
She said a debate was needed on exactly how money for children was spent, and described individual payments as "kind of a Celtic Tiger thing with rates increasing for individual payments".
She said research had shown that a high quality or Scandinavian approach to welfare provided better outcomes for children and their families.
In those countries, public childcare services offer subsidised pre-school or after-school places to children up to age 12 whose parents work.
Ms Burton's spokesman said she was "strongly in favour of universal payments", and said extra childcare places were announced in the Budget.
Taxing child benefit is likely to be introduced in next year's Budget, and will follow the €10 cut announced this month.