Groups criticise two-tier system

Thu, Feb 21, 2013, 00:00

REACTION:The Society of St Vincent de Paul has warned that a proposed two-tier system of child benefit payments could end up hitting low income working families the hardest.

Under the proposals, families would only qualify for the maximum payment of child benefit if they earned less than €25,000.

A spokeswoman for the society said the threshold was set too low and should be raised to ensure more low income families are able to access the higher payment rate.

“The threshold is the issue. Maybe it should be increased to the average industrial wage, around €35,000 to €40,000,” a spokeswoman said.

The Children Right’s Alliance, a coalition of dozens of children’s groups, said money from any savings should be reinvested in national childcare.

“Maintaining the universality of the payment is critical and introducing a top-up for families on low income is essential to address child poverty,” said alliance chief executive Tanya Ward.

“However, every time the Government has cut child benefit, much of it has been lost to children and families. Any proposals for reform must reinvest the funds in a fit for purpose national childcare system.”

The National Women’s Council of Ireland also backed calls for savings to be reinvested. But it also called for more people to qualify for the higher rate of payment, in order to support movement to employment.

Opposition parties were also critical of aspects of the system. Fianna Fáil claimed middle-income families and those with “quite low” earnings would get significantly less child benefit.

Social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea criticised the proposed two-tier system, and claimed the report would result in an “administrative quagmire” that would need 500 extra public servants to implement.

Sinn Féin’s social protection spokesman, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, said the report could worsen child poverty.

“These recommendations will further impoverish lower- and middle-range earners who are being constantly squeezed. This is not the way to tackle child poverty.”