Monday 18 December 2017

Child benefit: Three-child families will lose €480

Aideen Sheehan

CHILD benefit rates are to be cut by between €10 and €20 per child and low-income families will not be compensated by increases in means-tested child payments.

For a family with three children, the cuts will amount to €480 a year.

The monthly rate will be reduced from €150 to €140 each for the first and second child, from €187 to €167 for the third child, and from €187 to €177 for the fourth and subsequent children.

But unlike last year when child benefit rates were also slashed, there will be no corresponding increase in the qualified child payment or family income supplement to offset the impact on the poorest families.

Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv said to do so would have cost €50m that would have had to be found elsewhere.

However, he said that for families on social welfare the fact that those supplementary child payments were not being reduced meant that their total payments would be back to 2008 levels, whereas other families would suffer deeper cuts.

"The people who don't have social welfare payments have gone back further than those who do," he said.

Increasing supplementary child payments every time child benefit was cut could create a welfare trap against working, he said.

Other payments such as the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance will not be cut, while the free preschool year is also being retained.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said the new rates of child benefit would be at 2006 levels for the first two children in a family, 2004 rates for the third child and 2005 levels for subsequent children.

With 1.1 million children receiving child benefit, the state is aiming to save €149m through these reductions.

Mothers will also see a reduction of €8 per week in their maternity benefit payments.

The National Womens' Council said the Budget was anti-women and anti-children, and would make it harder for low-paid women to work because they relied on child benefit to pay for childcare.

The Parents Against Child Unfriendly Budget (PACUB) group said children were bearing the brunt of reckless borrowing by bankers.

"Children, the one group in Irish society that did not party, did not borrow recklessly, did not spend stupidly, are being targeted to bear the brunt of of the cuts in this cruel Budget," spokesperson Niamh Kelly said.

Irish Independent

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