Half of country’s children live in ‘welfare households’

Child benefit expert says one in five youngsters are in homes with income under €20,000

Ita Mangan, chairwoman of the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare, told an Oireachtas committee today that almost half of all children in Ireland are living in households in receipt of a weekly social welfare payment. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Ita Mangan, chairwoman of the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare, told an Oireachtas committee today that almost half of all children in Ireland are living in households in receipt of a weekly social welfare payment. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Wed, Mar 20, 2013, 19:20

Almost half of the country’s children are living in households that are in receipt of social welfare, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

The chairwoman of the expert group that recommended a two-tier child benefit system with “top-ups” for low-income families, Ita Mangan, also told the Oireachtas education and social protection committee that one in five youngsters lived in a home where income was less than €20,000 a year.

“One of the things I found quite alarming is that almost half of the children of this country are living in social welfare households. Something like 47 or 48 per cent are actually living in households which are receiving a weekly social welfare payment,” Ms Mangan said.

“The solution to that is not better or worse child income support payments. The solution to that is employment and getting people off social welfare. That is one of the single greatest issues that needs to be addressed.”

Ms Mangan said the vast majority of children did not live in very rich households, with 80 per cent of them living in homes where the income was under €80,000. “But more importantly, 20 per cent live in households who are earning under €20,000,” she said.

The advisory group on tax and social welfare has suggested a new child benefit payment replacing the Qualified Child Increases (QCI) and Family Income Supplements (FIS).

Families will only qualify for the maximum child benefit payment if they earn less than €25,000 under the system proposed in the expert group’s report submitted to Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton in April 2012 but not published until last month.

A reduced standard rate of about €110 a month would be paid for each child, down €20 from €130. The largest possible weekly “top-up” would be €38, but this supplement would be cut as income increased beyond €25,000.

For every €1 over €25,000 earned by a household, 20 cent would be withdrawn from the “top-up” payment.

Ms Mangan told the committee that in 2013 over €2.8 billion will be spent on various child related payments by the Department of Social Protection. This accounts for around 14 per cent of expenditure on social protection of over €20 billion.

The Child Benefit payment accounts for two-thirds of expenditure on child and family income supports as it is paid on a universal basis to approximately 609,000 families in respect of some 1.16 million children.