Child Benefit (formerly Children’s Allowance) is one of the few universal benefits under the Irish Social Welfare System. It is paid regardless of the means of the children and parents and regardless of social insurance contribution. The rate of payment is uniform but higher rate applies to third and subsequent children. Child Benefit is not taxable.
Formerly, tax allowances were also granted on the basis of the taxpayers having and maintaining children. This were phased out in the 1990, as they benefited the better of disproportionately.
Child Benefit is payable for a child under 16 years of age who is resident in the State. Children between 16 and 18 years in full time education or persons by reason of physical or medical incapacity, incapable of supporting themselves in the long term also qualify. Child Benefit is not payable for children in custody or detention.
A child resident outside the State with parents who are in the service of the State also qualifies. EU Social Security Rules may entitle persons with the children resident outside the State, but resident within the State to the payment.
Full time education requires that the child attend a full time course by day, a child is deemed in full time education during holiday breaks. A child may be deemed to continue in full-time education, where during the academic year he does not attend due to temporary interruption of the education between 1 May – 30 June up to 30 September other than in the case of a child who completes the final part of a cycle of education and terminates attendance.
Full time education does not include certain employment related courses. The following courses are excluded for the purpose of full-time instruction;
- FAS, SOLAS courses,
- work experience schemes,
- courses arising from employment,
- courses in an academic yea, comprising work experience in respect of which remuneration is made, when the periods exceed the time for instruction;
- courses provided by Teagasc where the training or practical instruction periods exceeds the time receiving tuition
Child Benefit is paid to the parent with whom the child resides. The parent concerned or other guardian must be habitually resident in the State.
The particular person with whom the child is normally resident receives the payment. Where a child’s parents have separate households, they will be regarded as normally resident with the parent with whom they spent the greater part of the time.
Where a child resides with various parties, there are rules regarding who is presumed to be entitled to the payment. Parents generally have priority over others. The benefit may be payable to another person who has the care and maintenance of the child in a household setting.
The rules favour receipt of the payment by a mother or a person standing in place of the mother. A child who is resident other than with a parent or step-parent whose mother is alive, is, if his mother is entitled to custody solely or jointly, regarded as normally residing with his mother.
Residence of Child
A child resident with only one person in the category of related persons, mother, father, stepfather, etc. is regarded as residing with that person and his co-habitee, if applicable and the parent may elect that the child is deemed to reside with his co-habitee.
A qualified child not in the above categories is normally regarded as resident with a women in whose care and charge he is, in the household, of which he is member and no other person or if there is no such women, with the head of that household.
When the normal residence of a child under the above rules will cause him to be resident with a person who has abandoned, deserted him or failed to contribute to his support, the rule does not apply.
The result of the rules is that the child benefit is normally payable to a mother or even a stepmother, in priority to a father. Where the child lives full-time with a father or stepfather, the child benefit is payable to the father. Where the parents live separately, the child benefit is paid to the parent with whom the child resides most of the time.
Where parents are deceased, a child is abandoned or in foster care, it is payable to the women who has care and charge of the child in the household or if there is no such woman, to the head of the household. Where a child is in an institution, on a voluntary basis, child benefit is payable to the person who would otherwise receive the benefit provided he or she is making adequate contributions to the child’s maintenance within the institution.
The 2010 Act sets out the rules to determine with whom a child normally resides for the purposes of entitlement to Child Benefit. The 2010 Act also sets out the rules to determine with whom a child normally resides for the purposes of social welfare payments with the exception of Child Benefit. It provides for an amendment to the definition of spouse to include different sex co-habiting couples as spouse for the purpose of Farm Assist and Pre-Retirement Allowance.
Parents may be disqualified from receiving the payment if they have abandoned or deserted the child or failed to maintain him / her. Where a child is placed in foster care, or with a relative by the HSE he is generally deemed to reside with the female head of the household concerned.
Disqualifications in relation to imprisonment and detention etc. apply to child benefit. The basic provision is, the child benefit is only paid to persons within the State. However, EU regulations may entitle a person to benefit who would not otherwise receive it.
If a child is placed in care, then the parent would only be entitled to the benefit if he or she in fact maintains him.
The early childcare supplement applied from 2006 until the beginning of 2010. The person entitled to child benefit received an additional significant supplement, until the child reached the age of five and a half. When the payment is abolished, a free pre-school year was introduced on a universal benefit basis for children of three and four years of age.
Financial Crisis Modifications
The 2011 Act provided for the discontinuance of the payment of the grant for multiple births under the Child Benefit scheme with effect from 1 January 2012. This section also provides for the phased alignment of the different rates of monthly Child Benefit payable according to the family size into a single rate. The rates payable to the third and subsequent qualified children were reduced with effect from 1 January 2012 and further reduced from 1 January 2013, when there will be a single rate of €140 for each qualified child.
The 2012 Act reduced the monthly rate of Child Benefit by €10 per child in respect of the first, second and third child. From January 2013, the monthly rate for each of the first three children would be €130. It also provides for a reduction in the monthly rate of Child Benefit by €10 per child, to €130, in respect of the fourth and each subsequent child from January 2014.
The 2014 Act provided for a €5 increase in the monthly rate of Child Benefit, bringing the rate from €130 to €135, with effect from 1 January 2015. In the case of twins, the monthly rate of Child Benefit increased from €195 per child to €202.50 per child, while in the case of multiple births of 3 or more children, the monthly rate of Child Benefit increased from €260 per child to €270 per child, with effect from 1 January 2015.
The standard rate in 2022 is as follows.
- One child €140
- Two children €280
- Three children€420
- Four children €560
- Five children€700
- Six children€840
- Seven children €980
- Eight children€1,120
Social Welfare (Child Benefit) Act 2023 amends the regulation making powers in relation to Child Benefit. It enables the Minister to make regulations to increase temporarily the rates of social welfare payments. This Act allows a bonus to be paid to recipients of Child Benefit subject to a sunset clause of 31st December 2023.