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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020
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Some Leaving Cert students don't get Child Benefit - because of their age

This Senator thinks that should change.

Image: Shutterstock/Katy Spichal

LEAVING CERTIFICATE STUDENTS aren’t always under 18 – in fact, 7% of the 313,000 or so of them are 18 and over.

Because they are adults, they no longer qualify for Child Benefit. Now, a Fine Gael Senator wants that changed.

According to the Department of Social Protection:

From January 2010, Child Benefit Child Benefit is no longer paid in respect of children aged 18 years. The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to their 18th birthday who are in full-time education or who have a disability.

Criticised as “divisive”

Senator for Carlow/Kilkenny, Pat O’Neill, wants the Child Benefit payment extended beyond 18 years, to include all Leaving Cert students. He believes the current age limit is unfair and divisive, and has written to Ministers Joan Burton and Michael Noonan about the issue.

“Some constituents had raised the issue with me, and it was an issue I observed myself,” O’Neill told TheJournal.ie.

“It’s not a major cost to the State, and with the economy picking up I think it’s something we could do.”

Currently the Child Benefit payment officially stops at age 16 and continues up to age 18 for any child in full-time schooling. On the basis of this education principle, there is no reason why the extension shouldn’t also apply to school students who have entered their 19th year.

O’Neill added: “The old 18 year age limit might have worked in the past when children tended to start school aged four. Many children now start primary school at five years of age and also complete transition year in secondary school.”

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He said he believes the current cut-off point is “extremely detrimental to families who are struggling financially, particularly one parent families”, adding that the Leaving Cert year “is one of the toughest financial years for any family”.

What does the Department of Social Protection say?

When asked to comment, the Department stated:

A value for money review of child income supports, published by the Department of Social Protection in 2010, found that participation pattern of children in education supported the age limit for Child Benefit.

It added that families on low incomes can avail of a number of provisions to social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22.

The Department is satisfied that the social protection system currently provides assistance to families with older children who are participating in full-time education and that this support is targeted at low-income families.

Read: Irish fathers look set to benefit from two weeks paid paternity leave>

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