Plan for wealthy to hand back child benefit is cynical tokenism of the worst kind – O’Dea

Published on: 14 August 2012

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection and Social Equality, Willie O’Dea TD, has labelled new measures by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton encouraging wealthy people to hand back the children’s allowance as tokenism at its worst.

Deputy O’Dea commented: “On the surface allowing people to hand back the children’s allowance, if they are agreeable to it, seems sensible but in reality it is meaningless.

“People who are in receipt of the children’s allowance have to apply for the benefit in the first instance. Having gone through the process of applying for this benefit, why would people that had actively looked for it, then voluntarily want to give it back?

“Those people in the higher income brackets have to pay high taxes and receipt of the children’s allowance is seen as a small recompense for this. Casually asking people to give up the allowance won’t work, at the very least some incentive is needed. The children’s allowance is seen as an entitlement by a lot of families and to ask them to give it up is nothing more than cynical tokenism of the worst kind.

“The Minister should be making it clear to her cabinet colleagues that the children’s allowance rates need to be preserved, particularly for those families on lower incomes. There are 250,000 children in Ireland below the poverty line and any plans to change this benefit must be given serious consideration. The Labour Party said before last year’s election that families will not be able to take any more cuts to child benefit. Labour has consistently promised not to cut child benefit.

“This year we see cuts to child benefit being applied for the third and fourth child; some of the cuts announced at the last budget are due to be applied next year as well. Families are already under enough strain and they will not be able to cope with another drop in their income. Poorer families have already been hit with other cuts to their fuel allowance and clothing allowance, many depend on the children’s allowance to be able to cloth and feed their children.

“I am concerned that Minister Burton is planning on changes to the benefit, I fear that asking families to hand back the children’s allowance is the first step in changing the criteria for the benefit. The Minister needs to make clear what her intentions are and she needs to dispel any rumours that the children’s allowance will be cut in any way, shape of form.”

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