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 until their 18th birthday who are in full-time education, or who have a disability. Child benefit is currently paid, as of end-December 2019, to over 637,000 families in respect of over 1.2 million children with an estimated expenditure of more than €2 billion in 2019.
Analysis of enrollment data from the Department of Education and Skills and current Child Benefit data indicate that there are up to 25,901 students aged 17 & 18 year in full-time secondary education during the 2019/2020 academic year. The estimated annual cost of extending the upper age limit to include 18 year olds in full-time secondary education is in the region of €56.1 million.
As extending the payment in respect of full time students in second level education who are over 18 years of age would have significant cost implications it 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) paid 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.
Further information on these schemes and other supports for families and children are available in a recently published guide on schemes and services produced by my Department for families and children and which is available via www.gov.ie .