Government Told 'Leave Our Kids Alone'

Published date: 
30 Jun 2009

Tuesday 30 June 2009
UNDER STRICT EMBARGO UNTIL: 00.01HRS Wednesday 1 July 2009

Government Told 'Leave Our Kids Alone'

The Children’s Rights Alliance will today (1 July) tell Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin TD, that it is a mistake to means-test or tax Child Benefit, as it will deepen the country’s future economic troubles and remove a vital safety net for families.  In a detailed briefing opposing changes to the Child Benefit payment, the Alliance argues that, if the objective of the Government is to claw back money from the wealthy, then it should be up front and use the income tax system.  This follows a series of Alliance meetings with key financial officials, including the Chair and Secretary of the Commission on Taxation, Frank Daly and Jim Kelly.

Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Alliance, says: ‘A tough economic landscape demands tough decisions on the part of the Government – the Alliance acknowledges this.  However, it will never, ever make economic sense to tax or means-test the Child Benefit System.  This payment reflects the value we place on children and on the future of our country and it is sacrosanct.  Child Benefit and its universality demonstrate that children are cherished, that we all, regardless of whether we have children or not, pay into a common pot for the collective good.  We need to raise our children well, as it is they who will shape our future, including our pensions.  The Alliance message is clear: leave our kids alone and if you want to tax wealthier families, then raise a tax on the wealthy – don’t raid piggy banks.  The Alliance is firmly opposed to any change to Child Benefit, not least because families have been hit enough – a raft of education budget cuts will come into effect this September and there is no need for further drains on an already depleting income’.

Child Benefit, as it stands, is a strong symbol that the Irish State values all children equally.  In its paper, the Alliance outlines four key reasons as to why any change to the Child Benefit will create economic and social costs, far outweighing any potential savings.

  1. Horizontal equity:  Child Benefit is a payment that reflects the value we place on children and our future, and on the lifecycle principle that income is distributed from those without children to those with children.  
  2. Child Benefit is children’s money:  This is recognised by the Irish Supreme Court. Mothers usually receive the benefit, and dedicate its use to their children – any cut in Child Benefit, rather than a cut in household income, will directly affect the child.
  3. Associated administrative costs: Means testing or taxing Child Benefit will require mammoth changes to the existing system; it will need policing and it could open up an unwelcome hornet’s nest of costly constitutional problems.
  4. Potential political fallout: It is deeply and politically unpopular, which fails to value the role of parents in raising their children.  The potential stigma is vast; the Government should not need to be reminded of the consequences of John Bruton’s proposed tax on children’s shoes in 1982.

The Alliance is a coalition of over 90 NGOs working for the rights and needs of children and is also a designated Social Partner.


For further information, please contact:
Carys Thomas, Communications Director
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087-7702845; Fax: (01) 662 9355

Notes to Editors:

The paper is available on the Alliance web site at

Children's Rights Alliance