Cutting child benefit in next week’s budget will ratchet up the pressure on already struggling families who just can’t afford to take any more cuts to their income, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea.

Reports today suggest there will be a €10 cut to Child Benefit for all families from €140 a month to €130 a month at next week’s budget.

Deputy O’Dea commented: “Targeting Child Benefit in this way is a further attack on families with children. Currently in Ireland there are 250,000 children living in families that are below the poverty line, we should be trying to protect families not target them.

“No one is denying that tough decisions need to be made, but the Government do have choices and unfortunately they seem to again want to target children.  

“Let’s not forget that the full impact of the 2012 cuts to child benefit will only come into effect in January.  Assuming the new cut will be for the first two children, a family with four children will now find themselves down €1,008 a year (€240 this year and €768 from last year’s cuts) compared to 2011. A recent survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions has revealed that 1.8 million families in Ireland have less than €100 a month to spend after bills have been paid. A family with four children in this situation would be down to €80 a month. This could be the difference between clothing their children, having the heating turned on or eating three meals a day.

“The cut may be marginal but it could have a devastating effect on families; they cannot be squeezed any further. Fianna Fáil has shown that the €3.5 billion budget adjustment can be made this year without touching Child Benefit. Our alternative budget proposals propose an even split between spending cuts and taxes, which is a fairer approach.

“There must now be serious questions asked of Minister Joan Burton. Time and time again Minister Burton has promised not to touch core social welfare rates; this is a blatant row-back. I find it incredible that a Labour minister, whose election campaign was based largely on a pledge to fight any reduction in child benefit, would even consider such a proposal.

“Many average income families that are tied into crippling mortgage repayments need all the help they can get. Cutting child benefit is a step too far for these families who already bore much of the pain from last year’s budget.

“The most vulnerable in our society were disproportionately hit at the last budget, a budget that was described by ESRI researchers as the most regressive of the entire crisis. The Government doesn’t seem to have learned from this.”