Dáil Éireann - Volume 614 - 09 February, 2006
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Mr. McCormack Mr. McCormack
42. Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the child dependant allowance has not been increased for the past 11 years in view of the fact that he has identified child poverty as one of the Govern ment’s key challenges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4670/06]
Mr. McGinley Mr. McGinley
55. Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the research into the development of a second tier payment has been completed by the NESC; when the findings are due to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4671/06]
Mr. P. Breen Mr. P. Breen
67. Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress to date in 2006 on introducing a two-tier payment targeted at children in poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4643/06]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan: I propose to take Questions Nos. 42, 55 and 67 together.
My Department provides child income support in a number of ways. The principal support is child benefit, a universal payment which is neutral vis-à-vis the employment status of the child’s parents and does not contribute to poverty traps. Over the period since 1997, the monthly rates of child benefit have increased by €111.91 at the lower rate and €135.48 at the higher rate, increases of 293.8% and 273.6 %, respectively.
From April 2006, child benefit rates will be €150 per month for each of the first two children and €185 per month for the third and each subsequent child. Child benefit is paid to over 547,540 families in respect of approximately 1,060,740 children.
A second child income support is child dependant allowance, paid in addition to weekly social welfare payments in respect of approximately 255,737 children at full rate and 83,577 at half rate. In addition, my Department provides cash support by way of weekly payments to families at work on low pay through the family income supplement scheme. A number of improvements have been made to the scheme over the years, including assessment of entitlement on the basis of net rather than gross income and progressive increases in the income thresholds, making it easier for lower income households to qualify for payment. As a result, there are currently over 17,400 families receiving a weekly FIS payment, reaching nearly 34,000 children. This is the highest number of FIS recipients in the history of the scheme.
Child poverty is clearly a complex area requiring co-ordinated action across a range of Government services and income support payments. The development of income supports which can make the most effective contribution to child poverty lies within my Department’s responsibilities and a series of budgets have increased considerably in real terms the level of resources which are going to families with children.
 While the solutions to the problem of child poverty cover a wide range of measures, including income supports and services, I am committed to reviewing the role of child income supports in this regard. This includes examining the feasibility of merging the family income supplement and child dependant allowance into a second tier child income support taking account of an examination being carried out in this area by the National Economic and Social Council.
The NESC is currently considering its draft report and I look forward to receiving a finalised report which will be of significant assistance in informing the future direction of child income support policy. Any future proposals in relation to CDAs and FIS will be assessed in the wider context of this review.
Dáil Éireann 614 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.