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Ó Snodaigh publishes 10 reasons not to cut child benefit

1 December, 2012 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has published ten reasons not to cut child benefit in next week’s budget.

Speaking this morning Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the government has a straight choice next week between targeting the least well off or targeting wealth.

He said;

“The myth that there are no choices in this budget has been laid bare for all to see.  Sinn Féin has shown that there are alternatives to austerity.

“Child benefit is a payment that families depend on each month to put food on the table or to pay heating and electricity bills.  It should not be cut.

“Sinn Féin proposes a 48% tax on income over €100,000 which would bring in €365 million, more than any propose cut in child benefit.

“Today I am outlining ten reasons why Sinn Féin believes Child Benefit should not be cut.

“The government has a straight choice.  It can either target children or it can introduce a new higher rate of tax on income over €100,000.  It can continue targeting those who have already borne the brunt of the crisis or it can begin to target wealth.”


10 reasons why the Minister should not cut child benefit 

  1. The incomes of households with children are already falling further and faster. The CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions demonstrates that the incomes of households with children fell five times more than the incomes of childless households between 2009 and 2010 (latest figures available). 

  2. Households with children are three times more likely to be in debt arising from ordinary living expenses than households without children. 

  3. The department’s own value for money review of child benefit published in 2010 demonstrates the dependence of middle income families on child benefit. It’s analysis found that households in the 4th and 5th of ten income brackets fall below or onto the poverty line after paying their taxes and it is child benefit that then lifts them onto and over the line respectively.  These families will not qualify for any top-up.  These are the families that pay for everything and are entitled to nothing. 

  4. It is a myth that cutting child benefit is just about taking it away from people who don’t need it.  The vast majority, between 60 and 64%, of families will not qualify for any top-up once the across the board cut is made.  The only feasible way for the minister to top-up certain families is to do so via the qualified child increase component of means-tested social welfare payments and possibly by also increasing FIS payments.  A PQ reply that from the Minister demonstrates that 64% of families in receipt of child benefit are not in receipt of any means-tested social welfare payment. This figure falls to 60% when FIS is included. 

  5. The cost of administering the child benefit scheme would sky rocket if a means-test were introduced for any part of it and unacceptable processing delays would inevitably become a feature.  Not only would you have to means-test upon initial application but you would have to repeat this test and repeatedly adjust the payment everytime a family’s financial circumstances change e.g. if they got an extra hour of work one week.  In November the Minister informed us that working families who are in poverty and who applied for FIS in June of this year may be waiting as long as until April next year for a decision on their claims.  Similar administrative back logs apply to most means-tested schemes and would undoubtedly apply to the top-up. 

  6. Child care and after school care are extremely expensive.  In terms of affordability Ireland has almost the worst child care and after school care provision in Europe.  Working families with young children are spending up to 41% of their income on child care. 

  7. Despite programme for government commitments, basic healthcare for children is extremely expensive.  According to a report by the European Observatory, published at the end of November this year, Ireland is the only country that does not offer universal coverage of primary care.  The average cost of a GP visit here is €51 compared to €22 in France. Ireland is one of only three countries to charge individuals for essential prescription drugs and common medicines are many multiples more expensive to purchase in Ireland than elsewhere.  We are one of only six countries to charge for attending hospital emergency departments. It says the hospital charge is much higher here than elsewhere – €100 compared to only €2-€30 in the other countries that charge. 

  8. According to the Energy Regulator families with children are having the most problems falling into arrears on their energy bills. 

  9. Maintaining the same level of child benefit payment for everybody means there is no disincentive to work.

  10. It would be fairer, simpler and economically sounder to introduce a third rate of income tax on all high earners.

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