Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Time to streamline process and save €100m
Now that schools have returned, the Department of Social Protection will recommence its policy of issuing 600,000 letters to parents to see if their child is in school or in the country; replicating a process that is already carried out by the National Education Welfare Board on behalf of the Department of Education.
“Not only does this place a significant, unnecessary administrative burden on both the Department and schools but the amount of paper involved could cover the pitch in Croke Park 2.5 times,” stated Denis Naughten.
“Surely, instead it would make far more sense to apply the resources used to process claims like family income supplement, which keeps the working poor in jobs, or addressing fraudulent claims rather than an expensive replication of a process operated by the Department of Education.”
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.
“If the Department of Social Protection were to amalgamate the two monitoring systems and pay child benefit based on school attendance savings of between €100m and €135m could be achieved, while still protecting the rate of payment to families who are relying on this monthly allowance,” Denis Naughten explained.
“Annually, the control section of the Department brings in savings of €75-85m under the Child Benefit scheme. On top of this between €4-5m pa is sought in overpayments. Introducing such a payment system would also have a significant impact on Child Benefit fraud and over claims, saving the taxpayer between €10.5m and €36m per year.”
To date the Department of Social Protection has opposed such a move on the basis that it would be illegal under EU law, as it would mean that Child Benefit would no longer be paid to parents living in Ireland who have children residing in another EU country.
However, Denis Naughten has pointed out that this proposal would be focused as a fraud prevention measure while also helping to address the issue of truancy within our school system and cutting down on bureaucracy rather than focusing solely on stopping €13.2m being paid to children who live somewhere else in the EU.
“As a result this would not only address issues of EU law but would also meet some of the European Central Bank and EU targets for Ireland in reducing red tape and streamlining Government,” added Denis Naughten. “Disappointingly to date it seems that Minister Burton and her Department has failed to even put such a plan forward at EU level.
“It is about time we started to do things differently in Ireland and act in the interests of our people by joining up Government. We cannot continue to do things the way we did in the past especially when it is taking money out of the pockets of families.”
CONTACT: Denis Naughten 086 1708800