Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years. The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to their 18th birthday who are in full-time education, or who have a disability. Child Benefit is currently paid to almost 628,788 families in respect of over 1.2 million children, with an estimated expenditure of more than €2 billion in 2018.
Given the universality of Child Benefit it is not a payment which lends itself to a targeted approach, and the considerable costs associated with any adjustment to the payment can result in benefits being spread very thinly, rather than making a difference where there is most need. Therefore, I have no plans to review the position whereby child benefit is terminated on the child's eighteenth birthday.
Families on low incomes can avail of a number of social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education up to the age of 18 (and up to the age of 22 under certain circumstances), including:
- Increase for a Qualified Child (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;
- the Working Family Payment (formerly Family Income Supplement) for low-paid employees with children;
- the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance for low income families (paid at the full-time second-level education rate).
As part of measures under Budget 2018, the weekly payment for each qualified child will increase from €29.80 to €31.80. This is an increase of 6.7%, and will benefit over 400,000 children.
Also in Budget 2018 earnings thresholds for the Working Family Payment, were increased by €10 per week for families with up to three children. This measure will particularly benefit low-income working families.
All of the schemes described above provide targeted assistance directly linked to household income and thereby support low-income families with older children participating in full-time education.