Belfast Telegraph

Families hardest hit by budget cuts

A family with four children will be at least 432 euro worse-off a year as anticipated child benefit cuts swept through all sectors of society.

After maintaining payments for the first and second children, the Government announced monthly cuts of 19 euro per month for the third child and 17 euro for the fourth and subsequent kids.

Despite the reduction, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said she believed Ireland remained strong on welfare rates even in the face of savings of 475 million euro in her department.

"Even after the loss of our economic sovereignty, our core welfare rates remain generous by comparison with our nearest neighbours," she said.

Calls have repeatedly been made for successive governments to adopt a means test for the child benefit payment but ministers have claimed it would be too cumbersome and costly.

The minister noted the huge difference between rates in Northern Ireland - 102.50 euro a month for the first child and 67.70 euro for additional children.

"I understand that these measures will have implications for some families but I must point out that families at risk of poverty will be more likely to benefit from supplementary child related payment such as child related increases to social welfare payments and the Family Income Supplement. Those payments remain unchanged," Ms Burton said.

Children's charity Barnardo's warned that cuts to child benefits would push more families into poverty and deprivation.

Director of Advocacy Norah Gibbons described the cuts as mean and short-sighted. "We understand that savings must be made but the combination of changes will haunt families on low incomes for many years to come," she added.

Families with children aged over four will be hit even further with significant cuts to the school allowance for clothing and footwear. Parents will lose 50 euro a year per child aged from four to 11, and 55 euro per child over 12. Families with four children aged 12 and over, for example, stand to lose 220 euro a year, on top of the 432 euro child benefit cuts.

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