In line with commitments contained in the Programme for Government, I established an Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare in June 2011, with the aim of harnessing expert opinion and experience to examine a number of specific issues. These include making cost-effective proposals for improving employment incentives and achieving better poverty outcomes, particularly child poverty outcomes.
The Group commenced its work programme by prioritising the area of family and child income supports and its report on this first module of work was published in February. The report makes important recommendations as to how child benefit could be maintained as a universal payment while reforming the current system of child and family income supports through a two-tier payment so as to better target those who need these supports most while minimising work disincentives. Under this two-tier payment approach, the Advisory Group suggests rebalancing and integrating child and family income support payments as follows:
A universal first-tier payment in respect of all children, which would replace the current child benefit payment
A child income support supplement or second-tier payment for low-income families, which would replace the current qualified child increases components on all Social Protection weekly payments as well as the family income supplement (FIS). This second-tier payment would be proportionately reduced as income increases and would be withdrawn for families on a higher income.
Given also the range of complex issues involved with this proposal, including fiscal, operational and legal considerations, as well as the implications for reforms in terms of child poverty and employment incentive outcomes, the Government has made no decision at this time on the core recommendations of the report. It is the Government’s intention that the report will now contribute to the broader policy debate on this important issue for families and their children.
The response of the End Child Poverty Coalition to the Advisory Group’s report on child and family income supports has been submitted to my Department. I also recently met with representatives of the Coalition to discuss their submission and listened to their views with interest as part of the overall consultation process on this report. With regard to the End Child Poverty Coalition’s proposals relating to FIS, it should be noted that the Advisory Group’s report acknowledges that this payment has a dual role not only as a child income support but also as an in-work support for parents on low incomes. Given this dual nature of the payment, the Advisory Group.
Question No. 348 withdrawn.