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 until their 18th birthday in respect of children who are in full-time education or who have a disability. Child benefit is currently paid, as of end-December 2021, to over 633,000 families in respect of over 1.2 million children with an estimated expenditure of more than €2 billion in 2019.
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.
As part of Budget 2021, I increased the rates for a qualified child aged under 12 by €2 to €38 per week, and for qualified children aged 12 or older by €5 to €45 per week. These increases came into effect in January. This was in recognition of the higher costs associated with older children.
Extending Child Benefit in respect of full time students in second level education who are over 18 years of age would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.