Welfare spending on children falls

Report indicates growing food poverty and savings from cuts to child benefit

Tánaiste Joan Burton: “It’s often missed that the greatest proportion of our spending is on pensions and related supports for older people.”  Photograph: Frank Miller

Tánaiste Joan Burton: “It’s often missed that the greatest proportion of our spending is on pensions and related supports for older people.” Photograph: Frank Miller

Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 01:00

Welfare spending on children fell last year, while spending on older people increased, according to figures from the Department of Social Protection.

Social welfare payments cost the department €20.3 billion last year, a 2.4 per cent drop on the 2012 figure.

Expenditure on welfare transfer accounted for 32.5 per cent of all day-to-day Government spending, equivalent to 12.4 per cent of GDP.

The data, contained in the Statistical Information on Social Welfare Service 2013 report, shows that more than 1.4 million people received a weekly social welfare payment at the end of the year and that more than 2.2 million benefited from them, when children and dependent adults are taken into account.

The biggest spend continues to be on pensions, accounting for 31.8 per cent of the welfare transfer expenditure. Expenditure here was €6.45 billion last year, an increase of 2.7 per cent on 2012. The number of people getting a pension increased by 15,817 (2.9 per cent), to 437,962: 181,128 women and 256,834 men.

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said: “It’s often missed that the greatest proportion of our spending is on pensions and related supports for older people.”

Expenditure on children, in contrast, fell by 5.2 per cent. This includes child benefit, guardian payments, family income supplement and school- related payments.

The number of families receiving child benefit rose by 2,633 to 611,366 last year and the number of children the payment was made for was up by 6,512 to 1,162, 582.

But spending on child benefit fell by 7.2 per cent, or €147 million, to €1.9 billion. This was due to reduction in child benefit in Budget 2013 which saw cuts of between €10 and €20 a month per child, depending on where they came in the family.

Expenditure on the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance fell by 27 per cent, or more than €17 million, to €48 million.

Reflecting increasing food poverty in households with children, spending on school meals rose from €35 million to €36.7 million, as did family income support which rose by 17 per cent to €261 million. The number of “working poor” families with children getting this income top-up increased from 223,608 in 2012 to 261,758.

The data indicated the continuing importance of social welfare in protecting against poverty, the Minister said. “Data published by the CSO in April found that social transfers have played a key role in reducing the at-risk-of-poverty rate from 50.3 per cent (before all social transfers) to 16.5 per cent after all social transfers. ”