Fianna Fáil has called for urgent clarity on the Government’s plans in relation to child benefit, following irresponsible and ill prepared kite-flying by the Education Minister on national radio this morning.
The party’s Education Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue commented, “Is it really acceptable for a senior Cabinet Minister to go on national radio to ‘start a debate’ about such an important issue, without having any accurate facts or figures, without having consulted colleagues or experts and without having any answers whatsoever about what is coming down the line for families?
“No one in Fianna Fáil will argue with the benefits of investing in pre-school education and giving all children the best chance at an equal start in life. That is why we introduced the free pre-school year in the first place, and we would certainly welcome investment in a second pre-school year. But it cannot be at the expense of supports for older children from lower income families who will miss out on this direct investment.
“Minister Quinn’s back of the envelope economics raises far more questions than it answers and gives an insight into just how little thought has gone into this proposal. The Minister repeatedly claimed that €20 billion is currently invested in child benefit, when in fact the actual figure is €2.2 billion. He said an additional pre-school year would cost €150 million. The government has already cut €142 million from child benefit. Is Minister Quinn proposing that this €142 million be channelled into his department or is he talking about further slashing child benefit?
“Rather than turning up for a chat on the national airwaves with half-baked facts and figures, the Minister would be much better advised to do some preparatory work, get the support of colleagues and present a credible, costed policy. If the Minister really wishes to ‘start a debate’ on this matter, we need to have the facts first.”