Written answers

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Department of Social and Family Affairs

Social Welfare Benefits

12:00 pm

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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Question 251: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 250 of 21 October 2009, if she will clarify that control measures including the issue of certificates, on a quarterly basis, to sub-sets of customers for completion and return to her Department to confirm that they continue to satisfy the conditions for receipt of child benefit do not infringe the civil rights of EU citizens; if she will further clarify the statement that claims are normally registered to the mother and, as the person receiving the benefit, it is their nationality that dictates the status of the claim in terms of the way it differentiates between EU and non-EU citizens; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44174/09]

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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The Child Benefit scheme has, in recent years, experienced significant expansion in the volume of claims received, the rates of payment and the diversity of the customer base. The annual cost in 2008 was approx. €2.46 billion and the payment is made to children of some 190 nationalities living in Ireland.

Against this background, the control policy for the child benefit scheme has been reviewed to ensure that controls against fraud and abuse of the scheme continue to be effective and relevant. As a result of the review, enhanced and updated control measures have been devised. When implementing control initiatives, the Department is mindful of the need to target those areas that have been identified through Fraud and Error Surveys and on-going control projects as posing the higher risks. Previous Fraud and Error Surveys, on both the Child Benefit scheme and other areas, indicated that non-Irish nationals pose a significantly higher control risk than the overall customer base.

The certification review process has initially focused on the highest-risk categories of customer and will be expanded to include other customer groups in the future. Currently the certification exercise in Child Benefit takes two forms. Employment certificates are issued, irrespective of nationality, to everyone, including Irish nationals, who are paid under EU regulation 1408/71. The majority of children in this group live outside Ireland.

Residency certificates are issued to all non-Irish national claimants, living with their children in Ireland. The certificates are issued to all non-Irish recipients – be they from within the EU or outside – and are not considered to be an infringement of civil rights. They are a control measure applied equally to a sub-set of child benefit claims.

The Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs Welfare Fraud report in September 2009 welcomed the introduction of the revised and more frequent residency and employment certification and was encouraged by the savings made so far as a result of these changes.

Child Benefit, with very limited exceptions, is payable to the mother of the children and, as with all Social Welfare claims, information is only requested of the person making the claim. If the nationality of the mother is Irish she will not receive a residency certificate even if the husband is not an Irish national.


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