Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard Allen

Question:

734 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the grants available to parents of multiple births, especially in the case of triplets. [19407/00]

The position in relation to the issue of child benefit, CB. entitlements and multiple births is as follows. Prior to the introduction of the Social Welfare Act, 1998, CB was payable at the normal rate for each child in the case of twins and a grant of £500 was payable at birth, and further grants of £500 were payable when the twins reached the ages of four and 12.

CB was paid at double the normal rate when three or more children were born together. However, no birth grants were payable in the case of triplets.

In the Social Welfare Act, 1998, I introduced two key additional measures designed to improve the overall package of benefits available to parents of multiple births. First, the £500 grants, which previously were confined to families with twins, were extended to include also families with multiple births of three or more children. Second, the rate of CB payable in respect of twins were increased to 150% of the normal CB rate. These measures took effect in September, 1998 at a full year cost of some £4.8 million.

In the interim, I have also provided for very substantial investments in the CB scheme. The 1998 budget provided for an additional full-year investment in the scheme of over £40 million, while last December's budget provides for a full year investment of almost £106 million. From September of this year, the basic CB monthly rates will have risen to £42.50 in respect of the first two children and £56 in respect of the third and subsequent children. These improvements will benefit all families with children, including of course, families with twins or triplets and represent, in my view, the most effective use of the available resources.