Burton in favour of two-tier child benefit system
SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton is in favour of cutting child benefit payments for 1.1 million children -- and then topping them up for poorer families.
But she has made no decision yet on how much the monthly €140 payment should be reduced by under the new two-tier system. Her advisory group has recommended a massive cut of €40 to bring the payment down to €100 per month.
Although Ms Burton has made no public comment, the Irish Independent understands she sees the new system as the only way of reducing the annual €2bn child benefit bill without severely impacting on families in greatest need.
She is expected to bring the group's report to Cabinet next month in advance of the December Budget -- which will contain €540m in social welfare cutbacks. Her advisory group's recommended cut would save €200m.
Ms Burton's department has ruled out the option of taxing child benefit for people earning more than €100,000 due to the likelihood that it would discriminate against married families.
It would be straightforward to tax child benefit payments to married couples but much more difficult in the case of unmarried couples.
But the new plan has already sparked a backlash from the opposition and social justice campaigners.
Single-parent group One Family said it supported the concept of a standard child benefit payment for all children with a top-up payment for "economically disadvantaged" families.
But the anti-poverty group Social Justice Ireland (SJI) yesterday said the plan to have a two-tier system of child benefit payments was unjust, unnecessary and unacceptable.
SJI spokesman Fr Sean Healy said that any further cuts to child benefit would increase child poverty.