Replacing child benefit with school attendance would save up €50m -Naughten

In Campaigns, Child Benefit Reform, Families by Denis Naughten


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Proposal would cut fraud & protect payments to struggling families

“Abolishing child benefit for school age children and replacing it with a school

attendance payment will lead to savings of up to €50m while still protecting the rate of payment to families who are relying on this monthly allowance” claims Denis Naughten TD. Introducing such a payment system would remove the need to pay €13.2m each year to children not resident in Ireland and would also have a significant impact on child benefit fraud and over claims, saving the taxpayer up to €36m per year. Naughten explained; “I believe that if the payment was no longer a universal child benefit payment, then the payment to children outside the State could be ceased. In its place, child benefit would only be paid up to school going age, at which point it would be replaced by a new school attendance payment that is paid up to a child’s 18th birthday.” Naughten’s scheme would be more than a fraud prevention measure; it would also help to address the issue of truancy within our school system, and cut down on bureaucracy: “The school attendance payment would be an added incentive for some parents to ensure that their child has a full attendance at school. Such a payment would be the most effective way to address the problem of school drop-outs, without incurring vast a administration cost as the reporting structure is already in place.”   Presently, a school is legally obliged to inform the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB), if a child has missed 20 days or more in the school year or if it is concerned that a child is missing too much school without legitimate reason such as illness. Naughten continued; “I believe that under the Croke Park agreement, the NEWB could be mandated to send an e-mail to Social Welfare informing them of a child’s continued absence, thus reducing the administration costs within the Department of Social Protection, schools and businesses, which have far better things to be doing than filling out forms for child benefit payments.” Naughten concluded by saying: “While I am aware that this would require a change in primary legislation, not only within the social welfare acts but also in the responsibilities of the NEWB, I believe measures to reduce the social welfare budget without impacting vulnerable families will be generally accepted by the public.”