No final decisions yet on child benefit cuts


THE DIFFICULTIES in identifying cohabiting couples for the purpose of imposing child benefit cuts are still being examined, Minister for Social Affairs Mary Hanafin said yesterday.

There have been various reports of plans for a 10 per cent cut to child benefit payments and a 5 per cent cut to all social welfare payments in next Wednesday’s budget, but Ms Hanafin said no final decisions had been made.

Asked about her previous suggestion that there could be a three-tier scheme of child benefit payments, she said she was still dealing with the issue of how to treat cohabiting couples.

Difficulties in assessing parental income arise when a cohabiting couple does not have its income assessed jointly.

“We do have within the finance system, within the Revenue system, people who are high earners, we have married couples who are high earners but there are still difficulties surrounding the other groups so we are still working on that, but the intention remains the same which is to try and be fair.”

Ms Hanafin said she wanted to protect vulnerable families while not imposing too severe a cut on working couples who were paying mortgages and childcare fees.

“Obviously we want to do it in a way that’s very fair to ensure that we protect the vulnerable families, and not to impose too severe a cut on couples who are working but who are also paying mortgages and paying for childcare.”

She described the latest unemployment figures as encouraging, saying they were showing signs of stabilising.

“When you think that November last year, 16,500 extra people came on the Live Register; this month it’s gone up 1,100 . . . but certainly I think it’s a source, and grounds, for open optimism.”

Ms Hanafin was speaking before she launched the Institute of Public Administration’s 2010 Administration Yearbook Diary in Dublin yesterday. The 44th edition includes details of 7,000 public and private organisations.