Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Ceisteanna (203)

Kevin O'Keeffe


203. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if consideration will be given to extending the payment term of child benefit to all children over 18 years of age that remain in second-level education up to leaving certificate examination stage; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many children will in fact be 18 years of age for part of their fifth year term in view of the fact that transition year is compulsory in some schools; and if her attention has further been drawn to the expenditure incurred in transition year in which child benefit would be of enormous help particularly for those having to meet transport costs to and from work experience in which they have to pay adult bus fares in view of their age. [22199/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

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, as of end-March 2019 to almost 632,000 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.  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.

Regarding the question of transport costs for those students in transition year, it is my understanding that the majority of children in transition would still be under 18 and therefore Child Benefit is in payment.  Overall responsibility for school transport is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills.