'Rational' state cannot rationalise away children's rights

17 September 2008

The State must not disregard children because of their parent's provenance, especially in harder economic times, says FLAC. It is time to reinstate Child Benefit as a truly universal payment, not dependent on the parents' circumstances, to help children living on the lowest incomes in the country.

In its pre-budget submission, the independent access to justice body called on the State to stop singling out certain children in Ireland for this treatment. "From cases we are seeing now, it would appear that the refusal to pay Child Benefit to people seeking this state's protection constitutes a form of discrimination and is resulting in inequality," said FLAC Policy & Campaigns Officer, Saoirse Brady. "The majority of children living in direct provision are being treated differently from their peers due to delays in regularising their parents' status to remain in Ireland. These parents are already on such low incomes, the loss of Child Benefit is enormous, comparatively speaking."

FLAC has also noted an increase in queries from people around the Back to School Clothing Allowance as they are being refused the payment with no real explanation. This payment is administered on a discretionary basis and its refusal is causing particular hardship, given rising costs of clothing, books and supplies not to mention extra-curricular activities and lunches.

"As we approach the second anniversary of our campaign around universal Child Benefit, it is deeply worrying that the government has failed to act on this issue, in breach of international conventions and its own stated policy on children," continued Ms Brady. "Our figures show that to award Child Benefit to all of the children would cost under €5 million extra directly, but this does not take into account administrative savings that arise under truly universal payments."

You can view FLAC's pre-budget submission online as well as details of FLAC's campaign around restoring universal Child Benefit.


For further information, please contact

Saoirse Brady, FLAC Campaigns & Policy Officer
FLAC, 13 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1

T: 01-874 5690 e-mail:
T: 1890 350 250 W:



Editors' notes:

  1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all. It campaigns through advocacy, strategic litigation and authoritative analysis to contribute to the eradication of social and economic exclusion.
  2. Child Benefit was previously available to asylum seekers prior to the introduction of the habitual residence condition in May 2004. This condition was introduced to discourage welfare tourism from the ten new EU States which acceded to the EU at that time but the government has since been advised by the EU that this was incompatible with EU law and no longer applies to EU workers who come to Ireland.
  3. There were approximately 2240 children under 18 in direct provision at the end of July 2008. A number of children are in receipt of Child Benefit if their parents had applied for asylum before 1 May 2004 and were in receipt of the benefit for one or more children. Some parents have also been granted the payment on appeal.