Dáil debates

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

3:00 am

Photo of Séamus BrennanSéamus Brennan (Dublin South, Fianna Fail)

Family income supplement is designed to provide support for people on low earnings with child dependants and provide the incentive for them to remain in, or take up, employment. Recent improvements to family income supplement include the change of assessment from a gross income basis to net income, the increase to €20 per week in the minimum payment and, in budget 2006, the refocusing of income thresholds to include additional gains for larger families. This resulted in increased payments of between €11.40 and €169.20, depending on earnings and family size.

In addition to significant increases for families on FIS, other reforms include substantial increases in each budget to child benefit rates which directly benefit 1 million children. Approximately 80,000 families benefit from the €40 per child increase in the back to school clothing and footwear allowance. More than 350,000 children qualified for the €1,000 a year early child care supplement, one third of whom are children of lone parents and 41,000 child care places were created since 2000 under the equal opportunities child care programme.

With regard to the level of take-up on FIS, it is not possible to estimate with certainty from administrative sources the number of families which may be eligible but do not apply for their FIS entitlements. However, research undertaken by the ESRI in 1997, based on the results of the Living in Ireland survey, suggested at that time that fewer than one in three potentially eligible claimants had made a claim and been awarded payment of FIS. Since those with a higher entitlement are more likely to avail of the scheme, the take-up in expenditure terms was then estimated to be somewhat higher, at between 35% and 38% of potential expenditure.

To establish an up-to-date view of the factors influencing the level of FIS take-up, my Department will commission a specific research project with the objective of designing and undertaking a proactive take-up campaign for a sample of parents who may have earnings within the FIS income thresholds. The project will also examine whether access barriers exist and, if so, how they can be addressed.

In addition, it will assess whether alternative mechanisms to enhance take-up of FIS can be implemented and whether access to the scheme can be improved. To ensure families are made aware of the FIS scheme generally and of recent improvements in particular, my Department undertook a nationwide awareness campaign recently to promote and encourage a greatly increased take-up of FIS for working families on low incomes.

I was very pleased with the response to the campaign as a total of 10,357 new FIS applications were received in the first nine months of this year compared with 5,489 for the corresponding period in 2005.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

As of last Friday, 11 November, 21,427 customers were in receipt of FIS compared with 16,356 this time last year. This increase in the numbers of persons receiving FIS is a positive development and we will build on it to ensure families eligible for FIS are encouraged to apply for the scheme and every opportunity is taken to promote awareness of the benefits of the scheme.


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