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Bishops urge government to abandon cuts to child benefit

At their winter meeting, the Irish Bishops’ Conference welcomes the U-turn on disability benefit – but remain concerned.

Bishop Christopher Jones has urged the government to reconsider cuts to child benefit and fuel allowances.
Bishop Christopher Jones has urged the government to reconsider cuts to child benefit and fuel allowances.
Image: James Horan/Photocall ireland

IRELAND’S CATHOLIC BISHOPS have urged the government to abandon its plan to cut child benefit for the parents of third and subsequent children – arguing that the move could be “devastating” for larger families on low incomes.

At their winter general meeting in Maynooth, the bishops welcomed the government’s review of the proposed cuts to disability benefit for people under 25 – but sought further U-turns from the €3.8 billion package.

The bishops specifically urged the government to reverse the planned cuts to child benefit for larger families, and the plan to scale back the winter fuel allowance.

The proposed cuts to child benefit – which will see rates equalised for all children over the next two years – will mean a cut of €27 per month for a third child, and €64 a month for fourth and subsequent children, as rates are flattened at €140 per child per month.

Fuel allowances, meanwhile, are to be cut from 32 to 26 weeks – a move Bishop Christopher Jones of Elphin said could have “a serious impact on older people and those suffering from ill-health”.

The child benefit proposals, he said, “could have a devastating impact on larger families with low incomes”.

“Bishops are not public policymakers and we are acutely conscious that, with limited resources available to Government, there are difficult decisions to be made,” he said.

Jones criticised the government for not applying extra taxes on the highest earners, apparently trying to incentivise people to aspire to higher wages, while it continue to burden families which made a valuable contribution in bringing up children.

Families are the cornerstone of strong communities, and children represent the future of our society, yet where is the incentive to people to make their contribution to society through family life?

The cuts will be part of the Social Welfare Bill, to be debated by TDs today. The proposal to cut domiciliary care allowance has been included in the initial text of the Bill, though it may be removed at Committee Stage tomorrow.

Read: Government “will revisit” Budget cut to disability allowance

In full: TheJournal.ie‘s coverage of Budget 2012

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Gavan Reilly

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