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Writing could be on the wall for cash payout to mothers

With the exception of pensions, all of the major social welfare payments have been cut in each of the last two budgets.

While the new government promised that there would be no further cuts in social welfare payments in its programme for government, financial reality may dictate a different outcome.

Top of the list is likely to be child benefit. Unlike most other social welfare payments, this is paid to all families, regardless of need.

This means that the millionaire's family receives the same amount as a family living in poverty.


Down the years there have been many proposals to either scrap or trim child benefit. These have included means-testing the payment to ensure that only those families who needed it actually received it or taxing child benefit to claw some of the payment back from better-off families.

However, mindful of the political risks of offending every mother in the country, previous governments backed off until the last government cut child benefits along with most other social welfare payments in the last two budgets.

Now that we have been locked out of the international capital market and are utterly dependent on the EU/IMF bailout fund to pay for day-to-day public services, the old political terms of trade have been replaced by a new reality, the need to keep our European masters happy.

If they want cuts in, or even the abolition of, child benefit or other social payments, then that is what they are going to get.

Department of Finance briefing notes to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, which were released this week, show that further sweeping cuts in welfare payments are now likely.

Not alone will these include reductions in child benefit but also the entitlement of many recipients, who are already receiving one weekly payment, to 50pc of another payment.

This, according to the Department of Finance, has had a "relatively complex" impact, which is code for 'we want to scrap these double-payments as soon as we possibly can'.

Such a move would also spare the government having to cut nominal welfare rates in the budget.