Belfast Telegraph

Child benefit cut advice 'perverse'

Government advice for child benefit to be cut is perverse, anti-poverty campaigners have warned.

Social Justice Ireland said fresh proposals for a two-tier system to reduce payments by up to 100 euro a month per child are unjust, unnecessary and unacceptable.

Sean Healy, director of the independent non-Government organisation, said there were many alternatives to slashing the benefits, such as targeting the wealthy and investing in jobs.

"What is the Government proposing to do, take money away from the household of four and not touch the household of two? It seems to me that would be perverse," said Dr Healy.

At the launch of an alternative Budget 2013, he completely rejected means-testing child benefit, insisting it would be unfair for a household of four to be out of pocket compared with a household of two.

A special advisory group appointed by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton recommended the cuts, which could save the department 200 million euro a year.

A department spokesman said the minister was currently considering a report from the group. "The aim of establishing this group was to harness expert opinion and experience in order to address a number of specific issues and make cost-effective proposals for improving employment incentives and achieving better poverty outcomes, particularly child poverty outcomes," he added.

Elsewhere, Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald dismissed speculation that child benefits would be cut in the Budget, insisting that no decisions on child benefit had yet been made and that discussions in Cabinet were ongoing.

Social Justice Ireland launched a set of its proposals for Budget 2013, which will be presented to Government ministers, TDs and advisers over the next three months.

Dr Healy insisted its proposals would shore up the 3.5 billion euro in savings required to help plug the deficit, keep Ireland's debt masters the Troika at bay and ensure fairness for everyone. "It's completely unacceptable that the Government continues to introduce proposals that benefit the rich at the expense of the rest of us," he said.

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