Nearly half of Republic’s children living in ‘welfare households’
One in five youngsters are in homes with income under €20,000, says child benefit expert
Ita Mangan, chairman of the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare: one in five youngsters living in a home where income is less than ¤20,000
Almost half of the State’s children are living in households in receipt of social welfare, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
The chairwoman of the group that recommended a two-tier child benefit system, Ita Mangan, also told the Oireachtas 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 . . . 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.”
The majority of the households Ms Mangan referred to would be in receipt of means-tested benefits such as jobseeker’s allowance, disability allowance or one-parent family payments. Some would be receiving insurance-based payments such as jobseeker’s benefit, while in other cases invalidity pensions could be the payment.
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.”
Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea, a committee member, said if the proposed system was introduced “an awful lot of low income people who are out there working for a living are going to be hit”.
He also said people in what he described as the “squeezed middle” would be disproportionately affected.
Quoting from the group’s report, Mr O’Dea said families in receipt of Family Income Supplements (FIS) would experience a reduction in their overall income. Ms Mangan said the group was looking closely at some type of “in-work” benefit to replace FIS.
The advisory group on tax and social welfare has suggested a new child-benefit payment, with “top-ups” for low-income families, replacing FIS and Qualified Child Increases (QCI). Ms Mangan said QCIs were creating a “disincentive to work”.
Families will only qualify for maximum child benefit payment if they earn less than €25,000 under the system proposed in the 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, 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 more than €2.8 billion would be spent on various child-related payments by the Department of Social Protection. This accounts for about 14 per cent of expenditure on social protection of more than €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 some 609,000 families for about 1.16 million children.
Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh questioned Ms Mangan about the delay in publishing the report. He asked if the group had indicated to the Minister any reason to delay. Ms Mangan said publication of the report was a matter for the Minister.