Special benefit for twins expected to be abolished in budget

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

SPECIAL CHILD benefit rates applying to twins are expected to be abolished in the budget as part of a package of measures to reduce spending on the universal payment.

Families with twins receive child benefit at 1½ times the normal monthly rate of €140 for each child, while for triplets and other multiple births the regular rate is doubled per child. Discontinuing the premiums would save €26 million a year.

The rate of child benefit to all recipients will be cut in the budget, although top-ups will be paid to low-income families. Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton was asked to reveal “her plans to review the amount of child benefit paid to parents of twins, triplets and so on” by Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy in a parliamentary question last week.

Ms Burton did not answer directly but said she had received a report on child and family income supports from the expert advisory group on tax and social welfare. “Their report is currently receiving my consideration and will assist the Government in setting out a pathway towards a more appropriate system of child income supports,” she said.

In the comprehensive review of expenditure undertaken last year, Ms Burton’s department calculated that discontinuing premiums paid to families with multiple births would save €25.7 million a year. It estimated a discontinuation would affect 28,500 recipients this year, which broke down to 27,480 twins and 1,020 triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets.

A spokeswoman for the department said no budgetary decisions had been taken.

While additional monthly payments were maintained in last year’s budget, the multiple births grant was scrapped. The grant of €635 had been paid at birth, with further grants of the same amount being paid when the children were aged four and 12.

The measure saved €4 million.

Irish Multiple Births Association chairwoman Judy Buckley wrote to Ms Burton this month saying the organisation was “vigorously opposed” to a reduction in child benefit.

Ms Burton has strongly defended the universal nature of the child benefit payment and this will not change in the budget. Top-ups may be paid through existing schemes already means-tested. The flat rate will reduce from €140 but will not go as low as €100. The income rate above which families will not qualify for top-ups has not been agreed, but middle income earners are expected to be affected.