TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore insists the Government has made no decision on implementing an overhaul of child benefit system – and is in no hurry to do so either.
Families will get a reprieve from the cuts for at least two years on foot of a report calling for a new top-up payment system. The report's recommendations would cost middle- income families at least €22 a month and possibly €53.
Fianna Fail social welfare spokesman Willie O'Dea said the "parents of middle Ireland can breathe easier" because the coalition is clearly indicating no appetite to adopt the recommendations of a report on child benefit. Mr Gilmore was asked specifically about the report in the Irish Independent that the reform will possibly be long-fingered beyond the next general election.
Mr O'Dea read out a quote from this newspaper of a coalition source saying Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has no intention of revisiting child benefit any time soon.
Mr O'Dea said the impact of the two-tier system would be marginal in terms of addressing child poverty or incentives for work and would target middle-income families.
"It is hardly worth the political trouble and social dislocation of hitting middle Ireland, the squeezed middle, once more to bring about results which the writers of the report concede would be, at best, marginal," he said.
Mr Gilmore said it was an issue that needs greater discussion. "The Government has not taken any decision in relation to the contents of the report," he said. "We have a report of an expert group that addresses the entire issue of child support in its widest sense. We will have a full discussion on it.
"There will be plenty of time for people to discuss it in a committee. It will be discussed in the Chamber if that is required."