Thousands of families cut off in child-benefit crackdown
Published 12/10/2010 | 05:00
CHILD-benefit payments to more than 8,500 children have been cut off in a new government crackdown, the Irish Independent has learned.
Some 3,070 families have had their child-benefit payments suspended and another 1,480 have been stopped altogether -- affecting a total of 8,600 children -- in a major clampdown by the Department of Social Protection.
The payments were cut off after parents failed to confirm they were still living at the listed address following a nationwide trawl of families.
This comes as Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv examines ways of clawing back desperately needed exchequer revenue through some form of cuts to child benefit.
New figures obtained from Mr O Cuiv's department show he has already moved to cut the child-benefit bill with a crackdown aimed at weeding out bogus claims by families who have left the country but are still receiving payments.
Child-benefit payments are worth €1,800 each per year for the first and second child, and €2,244 each for the third and subsequent children.
But even the department conceded that some families whose payments had been stopped might simply have moved house and hadn't received the correspondence to ensure they would keep getting the money.
They have issued more than 117,400 forms to parents this year, asking them to confirm their details and give contact details for their child's creche, school or GP, giving them 21 days to reply.
Some mothers have complained that the first they were aware of the issue was when their payments did not appear in their bank accounts or at the local post office last Tuesday.
The One Family group, which supports single-parent families, said it was concerned that payments were being summarily cut off without sending parents a follow-up written warning.
"People could be on holidays when the original form arrived, they might have moved house and they could also have literacy or language issues which meant they didn't know to return them in time," policy manager Candy Murphy said.
"These payments are crucial to many families in the current climate, and 21 days seems a very short notice period, given the length of time it can take to reinstate payments."
The department said that it was "reviewing claims to ensure that customers are receiving their full entitlement and that our records are up to date".
However, in a statement to the Irish Independent, it said: "It also means that payments are not being made to people who have left the jurisdiction. In this way the department is ensuring that resources are going to those who need them."