Written answers

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Department of Social Protection

Child Benefit Payments

Photo of Brendan GriffinBrendan Griffin (Kerry South, Fine Gael)
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To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will address the anomaly whereby both parents who have legal joint custody of children are not entitled to an equal proportion of child related benefits and that the means testing process, which sees maintenance payments considered an income for the recipient, would consider it an outgoing for the provider; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57550/12]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Department of Social Protection administers a wide range of payments through which it provides supports to families including those with children. I understand that the main payments in regard to this question include child benefit and qualified child increases to primary social welfare payments.

Child benefit is a universal payment made in respect of the care of children. Reflecting changes to the payment and its precursor (the children’s allowance payment) in the 1970s and 1980s, social welfare legislation provides that the payment is normally made to the mother or step-mother of the qualified child where the child lives with both parents. Similarly, where the child lives with their father but not their mother, payment may be made to the father.

Qualified child increases (QCIs) are paid as supplements to weekly social welfare benefit and assistance payments to reflect the need for greater incomes among benefit-dependent households with dependent children. Therefore, QCI payments do not of themselves constitute a specific social welfare scheme and entitlement to the appropriate primary adult payment must be established in the first instance. To qualify for payment of a QCI, the child in respect of whom the increase is claimed must be considered to be normally resident with the person who is claiming the primary payment. In cases where the parents of a child are living apart, the child is considered normally resident with whom s/he is living. Where the child is resident part of the time with each parent the child is generally considered to be normally resident with the parent with whom the child resides most of the time.

From this it can be seen that the main principle underlying payment arrangements is that of where the normal residence of the child is, rather than formal arrangements around custody. Decisions around the well-being of the children is the priority consideration in the operation of the current payment arrangements and this is reflected in the fact that payment is given to a person with whom the child is normally resident rather than on the basis of formal custody arrangements. Therefore these schemes do not provide for the splitting of the payment between parties in joint custody cases.

If the Deputy wishes to have a particular case considered in further detail and whether an anomalous situation exists, he can arrange to have the details brought to the attention of my Department for consideration.


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