Means Testing Child Benefit - a Bureaucratic Nightmare

Published date: 
19 Jul 2012

By Tanya Ward, Chief Executive

Means Testing Child Benefit - a Bureaucratic Nightmare

The Children’s Rights Alliance has today called on Government to ignore the advice of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to means test the Child Benefit payment.  Cutting Child Benefit would be a ‘lazy decision’ for Government and means testing a ‘bureaucratic nightmare with little economic return’.  The right course of action is to reform the child income system.

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, says:

“Child Benefit is the only universal payment that goes directly to children and families, and must be protected.  Many families are struggling with the costs of rearing children, particularly childcare cost.  Child Benefit does much to shield children from the stresses and devastation of poverty.  

“Now – in the heat of a recession – is not the time to reduce supports to families.  Survey after survey shows us that children are not getting the basics.  For example, one in five children in Ireland still go to school or bed hungry.  For many families – including those on average wages – Child Benefit keeps food on the table and the bills paid.  

“We need to remember that in Ireland we do not give families tax credits, despite the additional costs associated with raising a family.  Stopping the wealthy from getting Child Benefit is approaching the issue from the wrong angle – if you want to raise money from the wealthy, use the existing taxation system.

“What the headlines missed is that the IMF comments yesterday emphasised that Ireland should explore reforms which can both save money and protect the poor.  We hold the same view but firmly believe that Child Benefit must remain universal and be supplemented by a targeted payment for low income families.  If such reform was introduced, the rate of the Child Benefit component could then be reviewed.  

“Child Benefit is a key buffer protecting children and families from the worst fallout of the economic crisis and it must be protected.”


Note to Editor:

  • The Alliance’s 2009 Position Paper on the Child Benefit Payment details the barriers to means testing the payment:
  • One in five children in Ireland has reported having gone to school or bed hungry in 2010 is a finding of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey, a cross-national research study conducted in collaboration with the WHO Regional Office for Europe. See
  • 8.1% of children (over 90,00 children) live in consistent poverty (EU SILC 2010, March 2012).
Children's Rights Alliance