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Child benefit cut 'unfairly targets the most vulnerable'

Larger families – who are already more at risk of experiencing poverty – will bear the brunt of reductions to child benefit, a charity has warned.

Minister Joan Burton speaking this afternoon
Minister Joan Burton speaking this afternoon
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

CUTS TO CHILD benefit payments announced today will unfairly target precisely those families who are already most at risk of poverty and hardship, a charity has warned.

In today’s Budget, the Government announced cuts to welfare payments for families with three or more children. Monthly benefits will be reduced to €148 for the third child, down from €167.

For all subsequent children the monthly rate will fall to €160, where previously families had received up to €177. Further cuts are on the way with the payment to be “standardised” at €140 for all children in the next two years. Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin said the measure would save €43million.

Children’s charity Barnardos said the cut would unfairly target larger families who are already suffering disproportionately in the recession. Calling the measure “mean-spirited” and “unfair”, spokesperson June Tinsley told TheJournal.ie that Barnardos are “very concerned for larger families.”

“These families are already at higher risk of poverty, and this will push further families into deprivation,” she said. “If you add in cuts to the Back to School allowance and school transport schemes, larger families especially those in rural areas will be put under severe pressure.”

The Government also announced cuts of up to 25 per cent to the Back to School allowance, and the end of extra grants paid to parents of twins and triplets.

“For larger families, it could mean the difference between – are they able to pay their ESB bills? Are they able to buy school books for their children?” Tinsley added.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said larger cuts had originally been slated for her Department, but she had succeeded in reducing the total spending reduction to €475million.

However, Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald said the welfare cuts would be “sucking €475million out of local economies”.

In full: Brendan Howlin’s Budget 2012 announcement>

Liveblog: Government ministers explain the Budget 2012 cuts in more detail>

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Michael Freeman

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