For families, particularly women and children, Child Income Supports, including Child Benefit, are important features of the Irish economic landscape. Child Benefit is a universal payment that is paid directly to all mothers, unless otherwise stipulated. The universality of child benefit is based on an understanding that those with children have higher costs than those without and therefore income is distributed from those who do not have children to those who do. It acknowledges that children are key to society and necessary economically and will be the ones to pay for the pensions of those now paying their Child Benefit.
Child Benefit recognises the role that is played by women as care givers and that fact that income may not be distributed equally within the home. Research shows that the vast majority of child benefit is spent either directly (on childcare, clothing, nappies, etc) or indirectly (on household bills that support the household in which the child lives) on children. in the Irish context, child benefit is also seen and used as a key mechanism to counteract the lack of investment and availability of affordable childcare, a fact acknowledged by the Government when they introduced the series of increases to the Child Benefit payment to account for ’increasing childcare costs’.
Child Benefit is also part of an overall package of Child Income Supports that target child-related assistance to families who are at risk of poverty. Child poverty remains a consistent challenge in Ireland.
Seeking to ensure that Child Benefit rates are at least maintained at current levels is a key area of work for NWCI. We also seek to ensure that the universal nature of the payment is retained and that top-up payments that are currently paid to social welfare recipients to compensate them for losses in the universal payment are extended to those on low incomes, particularly those with medical and GP cards and those in receipt of Family Income Supplement.