Changes to child benefit must not affect vulnerable - Greens


CHANGES IN child benefit payments in the Budget need to be fair and have minimal impact on those who can least afford it, Green Party deputy leader Mary White has said.

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD told The Irish Times yesterday: “The Green Party is insisting in the talks with our Coalition partners that any reductions in child benefit will be fair and will impact least on those who can least afford it.”

Acknowledging that “one euro out of every eight euro spent on social welfare” was devoted to child benefit, Ms White said the annual €2.5 billion cost was “a huge amount”. She added: “Child benefit is a payment that has always been made to the mother and we want to protect particularly those mothers who are in poor circumstances.”

Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin said reductions in social welfare would be the last matter to be considered ahead of the Budget and stressed that no area had been ruled out for cuts.

“[Social welfare] is the most difficult, the most sensitive area and that’s why as a Government we are leaving it until last. We’ll see what are the other issues that are going to come about – what is going to happen on public pay and in other departments – and then when we have weighed up all that, we will see what are the decisions and what are the changes that will have to be in the social welfare budget,” Ms Hanafin said.

Figures released by Ms Hanafin’s department show the monthly payment for the first and second child rose from €85.80 each in 2001 to €166 in 2008. In the same period, payments for the third and subsequent children went from €109.20 to €203.

Government sources said pre-budget discussions were taking place between Coalition partners and although they were “tough”, they were being conducted in “a positive atmosphere”.