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 623,000 families in respect of nearly 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 would not be a targeted approach.
Families on low incomes can 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, Budget 2019 introduced a higher rate IQC for children aged 12 and over in recognition of the higher costs faced by families with older children;
- 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).
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.
Any changes to the eligibility for Child Benefit to those children over 18 years of age that are still in full time secondary education would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.