Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection, Willie O’Dea TD, says he will vigorously oppose any plans to introduce means testing for child benefit.
Deputy O’Dea was responding to suggestions from the IMF that means testing should be introduced for child benefit and medical cards for over 70s.
“Reports that the IMF want the Government to introduce means testing for child benefit and the failure of Government to move quickly to rule it out are worrying. Means testing the payment is a blunt instrument and will end up taking the payment from middle income families who are relying on Child Benefit to maintain a basic quality of life for their children.
“It is a myth that only those on low income really ‘need’ the payment. Many average income families that are tied into crippling mortgage repayments need all the help they can get. Depriving them of the child benefit is a step too far for these families who have already borne much of the pain in attempts to correct the national finances.
“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. Cuts to disability payments, children’s allowance, the Domiciliary Care Allowance, the One Parent Family payment and Community Employment Schemes have all impacted on those most in need of support. While at the same time there was little or no impact on sections of society more able to bear the burden.
“By means testing child benefit the Government would essentially be attacking the lower and middle income families. There is a case to be made for ending the automatic entitlement to child benefit for those on very high incomes, but I would urge Minister Joan Burton to think long and hard before attempting to introduce means testing.
“As a senior Labour Party politician, Minister Burton knows well the promises her party made not to touch child benefit in any way. We will wait and see if this will be just another broken Labour promise.”