28/01/2015

Fine Gael Calls For Extension Of Child Benefit

Child benefit should be extended to include all Leaving Cert students, Fine Gael's Pat O'Neill announced.

The Carlow/Kilkenny Senator said that the current age limit of 18 is "unfair and divisive".

"Currently the Child Benefit payment officially stops at age 16 and continues up to age 18 for any child in full time schooling. On the basis of this education principle, there is no reason why the extension shouldn’t also apply to school students who have entered their 19th year," Senator O'Neill said.

He added: "The 18 year cut off point is extremely detrimental to families who are struggling financially, particularly one parent families.

"The fact is that the Leaving Cert year is one of the toughest financial years for any family. In many schools there is a different uniform to be bought for 6th year students. The text books for the Leaving Cert are incredibly expensive. Parents have to pay for mock exams, the Leaving Cert exam itself and the application to the CAO. Many students also feel under pressure to do grinds during 6th year to supplement their studies, and these extra classes add further burden to what is already an incredibly expensive year.

"The number of 19 year old school students is fairly small in the grand scheme of things. Accordingly, the benefits to the families of extending this payment will far outweigh the cost to the State.

"I call on the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, to extend the Child Benefit to ensure that the cut-off point is age 18 and/or up to completion of the Leaving Cert. It is the only way to ensure complete equity for all school students no matter what time of the year they were born."

(MH/CD)

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