Barnardos wants high earners' cuts to fund low-income group

Wed, Nov 11, 2009, 00:00

BARNARDOS CHIEF executive Fergus Finlay yesterday indicated support for a cut in child benefit for high-income earners to fund an increase for those on low incomes.

He was responding to a suggestion by Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin that three different child benefit rates may be introduced in the budget.

“If you have to make cuts, you start from that position that those most vulnerable must be most protected. There are some recipients of child benefit who probably don’t need it,” he said.

There was a case for a higher level of child benefit for those on lower incomes “and perhaps that means a lower level of child benefit for those on higher income levels,” he said. However, any savings from these cuts should not go back to the exchequer but into the child benefit budget, he said. Such a move could not be made without redesigning the system, he said.

Mr Finlay welcomed signals by Ms Hanafin that a universal element of the children’s allowance would be retained and that it would not be cut for those on lower incomes. Up to now, indications have been that rather than reducing child benefit to higher income families, cutting the rate was being considered, he said.

This was the easy option, but “would have a hugely disproportionate impact on the families that depend most on it”. He was speaking at the launch of the charity’s Yes/No pre-budget campaign against child poverty. A new report by Barnardos has warned that child benefit cuts would increase child poverty levels which have reduced in recent years.Increases in child benefit have been key to reducing child poverty, report author and independent researcher Brian Harvey said. Child poverty halved in Ireland between 2003 and 2007.

He found that the basic costs of a child are almost met by child benefit levels. The reduction in child poverty is threatened by proposed changes in the McCarthy report, Mr Harvey warned.

In its pre-budget campaign, Barnardos urged the Government not to cut child benefit rates for families receiving extra income supports and not to cut basic social welfare or one-parent family allowance.