Pressure to abandon two-tier benefits

Campaign groups said they are hopeful that income thresholds for a proposed two-tier child benefit system will be reconsidered in order to protect poorer families.

Although there are no definite plans to change the children’s allowance, a recent report by an advisory group on tax on social welfare recommended that payments should be gradually reduced for families earning above €25,000.

Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council said the threshold was “simply too low” and would particularly effect “many women who are on low pay and on reduced working hours”.

Camille Loftus of the End Child Poverty Commission said this was “far, far too low and will result in hardship for a number of families on very low incomes”.

She met with Social Protection Minister Joan Burton earlier this week, who told her the advisory group has been “asked to identify different cut off points” adding that “we draw some hope from that”.

The report recommended a two-tier system of child benefit, with a sliding scale to reduce the payment as family income rises.

It said the standard rate should be cut from €130 to €110 a month. Poorer families would have to apply for a top-up payment, the largest of which would be €38 a week. This would reduce as the family income increases above €25,000.

In response to the report, Ms Burton indicated that she would resist widescale cuts to the payment, saying the savings recommended in the report have already largely been achieved.

Ms Loftus told the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection yesterday that over €500m in cuts to child benefit have already been made and “we would like to see that directed to enhanced services for children”.

She said the savings should be used to pay for expenditure such as school books, extra childcare, and greater health services for children.

“Unless we move in that direction, the legacy of this crisis will be felt for years to come in terms of restricted development opportunities,” said Ms Loftus.


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