PEOPLE whose child benefit payments have been incorrectly cut off in a government clampdown on invalid claims are facing lengthy battles to get them reinstated.
It follows a Department of Social Protection campaign aimed at stopping child benefit payments to families who no longer live in Ireland.
The clampdown has resulted in payments being stopped or suspended to more than 4,500 families with around 8,600 children. The department concedes this figure includes families who simply moved address and did not receive official correspondence asking them to confirm their whereabouts.
The department said that they were receiving an average of 100 late replies a week from Irish families who had been asked to confirm their child benefit details and there was no delay in dealing with these.
They said there was some delay dealing with EU citizens receiving child benefit here who had returned their forms very late or had given insufficient evidence of employment, but they had diverted extra staff to this area and were now dealing with the backlog.
People who had left the State might also face delays in getting their child benefit reinstated as they had to provide documentary evidence of their time overseas. They must also agree to repay any overpayments, the department said in a statement.
"In cases of financial hardship and where there is no question of fraud, staff deal with such post on an emergency basis," a spokesperson added
A man who moved here in 2008 said he was being made to feel like a second-class citizen after battling for nearly four months to have payments restored for his two children.
Canadian-born software expert Sean Karl said he was so fed up with battling bureaucracy on this that he was considering relocating to another country.
He moved from Dublin to Galway earlier this year to launch a software start-up company, and consequently did not receive a letter from the department that was sent to his old address asking for confirmation of the family's whereabouts.
The first they knew of it was when the payments were stopped in July and, despite immediately contacting officials, they are still waiting to be reinstated and get the €1,200 in backpayments owed.
Mr Karl said he was forced to pay a doctor to verify his children were on record in Ireland.
And he is perplexed that the department did not have his new address as he had updated it back in February for tax purposes.