Child Benefit is to increase by €5 per child from next January with a promise of an identical rise in 2016 so long as the economic recovery continues.
The increase is the first since Budget 2008 when the payment rose to a record €160 for the first and second child and €203 for third and subsequent children.
A series of reductions, the standardisation of the payment so that the same rate was paid for every child, and the phasing out of payments for 18-year-olds in full-time education all followed.
The result was a reduction in 2013 to €130 per month for every child, apart from incremental increases for twins and other multiple birth siblings.
That rate was maintained this year but the changes from January will give an extra €60 per child in a full year with a promise of a further €60 per child in 2016.
Around 616,000 families, with 1.17m children, will benefit, pushing the total Child Benefit budget up to €1.97bn next year.
The National Women’s Council welcomed the increase but said the measure, which would give back around €70m, did not make up for the €400m cut from Child Benefit since 2009.
Barnardos said the increase was very welcome. CEO Fergus Finlay said: “I’d have liked more, but I think the fact that better Child Benefit is back on the agenda is a good start.”
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton defended her decision to opt for an across-the-board rise rather than reform the way the payment is distributed as it is paid for all children, including those with multi-millionaire parents.
“It’s paid directly to the caring parent and research after research shows that it’s a very well directed payment for the support of children,” she said.
Child Benefit is one of only a handful of schemes to see its rates increase as the minister opted to keep all core social welfare payments at their current level despite the growing numbers of people leaving the live register cutting €188m off the welfare bill next year.
One exception is the Living Alone Allowance for pensioners, people with disabilities, and certain other welfare recipients who live alone. It goes up by €1.30 per week, from €7.70 to €9, in what is the first increase to the payment since 1996.
Seán Moynihan, chief executive of the charity, Alone, said the increase would just about cover the price of a litre of milk.
“It’s not in line with inflation over the past 18 years and will make very little difference to the 20% of older people who are at risk of deprivation or living in poverty,” he said.
Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said the increase was welcome for the 180,000 older people who would benefit, but added that it fell short of what was needed.
“We had sought an increase of €3.80 to restore some of the buying power of this payment, so the actual increase represents just a third of this,” Mr Timmins said.
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