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 the age of 18 years where they are in full-time education or have a disability. Child Benefit is currently paid, as of end-May 2019 to almost 634,000 families in respect of just over 1.2 million children, with an estimated expenditure of more than €2 billion in 2018.
Given the universality of Child Benefit, extending entitlement to parents of full time students in second level education who are over 18 years of age is not considered a sufficiently targeted approach. The adoption of such a proposal would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.
Families on low incomes may be able to avail of a number of social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22, including:
- Increase for a Qualified Child (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;
- the Working Family Payment for low-paid employees with children;
- the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.
These schemes provide targeted assistance that is directly linked to household income and thereby support low-income families with older children participating in full-time education.
I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.