Written Answers. - Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

130 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs his views on the recommendation of the inter-agency campaign, Open Your Eyes to Child Poverty, to double child benefit as an anti-poverty measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20488/00]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

811 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will give favourable consideration to the award of a substantial increase in child benefit in the context of the forthcoming estimates and budget with particular reference to the need to upgrade and improve the status of this family payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20740/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 811 together.

The view that child benefit represents a key instrument for tackling child poverty and targeting child income support is widely acknowledged and is fully shared by this Government. As it is a universal payment which is not taxable or not assessed as means for other secondary benefits, it does not contribute to disincentives to taking up employment or improving wages.

The value placed on child benefit is reflected in the level of resources invested in the scheme over the past number of years. The 1999 budget provided for a full-year investment of over £40 million, while the most recent budget provides for a full-year investment of almost £106 million, bringing total investment in the scheme up to some £575 million annually. Some 491,000 families with a total of 967,000 children benefited from these increases.
It is my intention that the value of the child benefit scheme will continue to be exploited to the greatest possible extent. In this regard, the Government has made a commitment in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness to substantially increase the payment over the period of the programme, with a priority focus towards £100 per month for third and subsequent children. In line with this commitment, from September the basic child benefit monthly rates will have risen to £42.40 in respect of each of the first two children and £56 in respect of the third and subsequent children.
It must be recognised, that child poverty is a complex problem, the alleviation of which requires policies on a number of fronts. Approximately, 40% of children are in families who are in receipt of weekly social welfare payments. Measures such as the family income supplement have helped encourage parents make the transition from welfare dependency to work and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Under the terms of framework III of the programme, new targets will be considered under the various themes of the National Anti – Poverty Strategy, including child poverty. These targets are to be considered in consultation with the social partners.