Dáil debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Social Welfare and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2023: From the Seanad


3:45 pm

Photo of Donnchadh Ó LaoghaireDonnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

We will support the amendments and we welcome the changes that were proposed in the Seanad. They are very welcome and people appreciated the announcement in the budget. That said, we need to look to the coming budget in respect of the child benefit rate, which has not increased in recent years and is still substantially below where it was pre recession. That needs to viewed in the context of the Barnardos report this week regarding the decisions parents are having to make to provide for their children. Parents talked about missing meals and activities being sacrificed to ensure food is put on the table. Obviously, many families are doing just fine, but there remain many other families in our society who are struggling. The Taoiseach spoke about the emphasis on child poverty. More needs to be done for children, in respect of not only the rate of child benefit but also an increase. I would perhaps place more emphasis on the increase for a qualified child. While there was an increase in the budget, it did not come anywhere near what the Children's Rights Alliance and other organisations dealing with families in poverty advocated for. I have made a point frequently in recent months about the cliff edge that exists for lone parents, not least those who are working and would be entitled to the working family payment.

More can be done and that Barnardos report was quite worrying. The Minister, Deputy Michael McGrath, acknowledged it is a concern for people in these circumstances and stated nobody should have to make such sacrifices to ensure their children are fed, but that is a broader question about child benefit and some of the issues I am concerned about. Nevertheless, there is no doubt the amendments are positive, welcome and logical. The previous policy may have come from a time when people did not necessarily stay in school until that age but that has changed, so it is good the amendments reflect that.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.