A series of biting social welfare cuts could push already struggling Irish families into a poverty trap, experts are warning.
Although the full extent of the cuts to child and unemployment benefits in the Irish Budget have yet to be announced, the anticipated reductions in income could coincide dangerously with a two percent hike in value added tax (VAT) rates driving up the cost of living even further.
This week children's advocacy groups warned that cutting children's benefit by a rumored $14 would drive families into poverty.
Senator Jillian Van Turnhout of the Children's Rights Alliance told the Herald that the speculation is causing 'incredible stress' for families.
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'This would be a third successive cut for families,' Van Turnhout told the Herald. 'This will deepen families who are already in poverty or push those who are on lone-income payments into poverty. We have to make some difficult decisions. But child poverty is unacceptable.'
Fergus Finlay of Barnardos, the charity founded to care for vulnerable children and young people, said that such a move would result in children going hungry.
But Irish Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that no cuts had been formally decided. There were many compensatory measures that could be taken, he added.
'For example, the child dependent allowance is paid to those on the lowest incomes and that could potentially be increased to compensate for the reduction in child benefit across the board.'
It is believed that Irish ministers have contemplated introducing a $10 cut to social welfare payments.