Child benefit is a payment made to the parents of children under 16 or children under 18 if they are attending full-time education, participating in Youthreach training, or are disabled. The payment is not dependent on the financial status of the family.
Child benefit payments were discontinued for children over the age of 18 in January 2010. This cessation applies even to those in full-time education. On 23 July 2013, the Society of St Vincent de Paul issued a statement requesting Ministers to reinstate the payment for over 18s in second level education. The Society notes that many children are still attending school at the age of 18. Children may have been held back due to educational, familial or health reasons, or they may simply have started school late. Regardless, for low income families the Government’s refusal to extend child benefit to those over 18 creates a significant barrier to educational attainment.
St Vincent de Paul issued letters of concern to the Ministers of Social Protection and Education, in which the society stressed the importance of such payments for low income families or families living on the poverty line. They noted that: “the result of this cut will be lower rates of school completion and educational progression among disadvantaged children and young people, and increased levels of stress and hardship for families”.
With youth unemployment remaining a serious social concern, access to education and equality of access is more important than ever. An extension of the child benefit scheme will go some way towards ensuring children remain in school, regardless of their economic situation.
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