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Families fear Budget will force them onto the breadline

FAMILIES will be pushed into a poverty trap if the range of cuts in benefits and living cost increases are introduced, experts have claimed.

The full extent of the unforgiving Budget has yet to be revealed.

But cuts in child benefit and unemployment benefit are both on the table.

These reductions in income coincide with a 2pc hike in VAT rates which will push up the cost of living even further.

Children's advocacy groups said that slashing children's benefit by a speculated €10 would drive families into poverty and is "unacceptable".

Senator Jillian Van Turnhout of the Children's Rights Alliance said that the speculation is causing "incredible stress" for families.

"This would be a third successive cut for families," she said.

"This will deepen families who are already in poverty or push those who are on lone-income (payments) into poverty.

"We have to make some difficult decisions. But child poverty is unacceptable."

Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay (pictured) said that such a move would "break moral boundaries" and result in children going hungry.

However, Labour TD Aodhon O Riordain said that there must be a measure of "poverty proofing".

And Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that no cut had been formally decided. But he said that everything was "up for grabs" and there were "compensatory measures" that could be taken.

"For example, the child dependent allowance is paid to those on the lowest incomes and that could potentially be increased to compensate for the reduction in child benefit across the board," he added.

And ministers have investigated introducing a €8 cut to dole payments as well as measures to force employers to pay the first four weeks of sick leave for workers.

Meanwhile, Government officials are looking at a widespread clampdown at airports and ferry terminals to catch welfare fraud by non-residents.