Over much of the developed world and an increasing part of the developing world, governments provide support to families with children. The extent of such support and whether it is provided directly through income supports or indirectly through the tax code or through public services can vary enormously in accordance with a country’s wealth and its tradition of social policy. However, most countries provide some cash payments to assist families with the costs of raising children and Ireland is certainly no exception. The most significant of these child income support (CIS) payments are delivered through the social welfare system: Child Benefit (CB), QCIs (increases for qualified children to primary social welfare payments), Family Income Supplement (FIS), Back to School, Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BtSCFA) and the now defunct Early Childcare Supplement (ECS)1. Total spending on these supports is very significant, both in social welfare spending and in macro-fiscal terms, amounting to around €3.3 billion or 2 per cent of GDP in 2010.
Until now CIS policy has not been the subject of a policy and value-for-money (VfM) review, despite being the primary subject matter in many reports over the last thirty years. As part of the government’s ongoing programme of spending reviews, the Department of Social Protection (DSP) initiated, in 2009, a review covering policy around the CB, QCIs and FIS payments as well as aspects of the BtSCFA and ECS payments. The review was undertaken over a period of 18 months in 2009/10 by the DSP under the supervision of a Steering Group established by the Secretary General of the DSP and chaired by an external chairperson. This report presents the analysis, conclusions and recommendations of that review; it outlines the approach taken and key themes emerging within specific chapters. In line with the overall approach of the expenditure review process, conclusions reached in the review do not necessarily represent Government policy in this area but are expected to play a role in informing future policy development particularly directed at securing more coherent, effective and efficient spending of public money on families with children.
Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the review.
Chapter 2 examines the policy rationale for CIS policy and programmes by identifying the particular objectives pertaining to each scheme including their role in tackling child poverty.
Chapter 3 provides broad descriptions of the main CIS payments and the key developments relating to each scheme since their inception. It also examines trends in expenditure on the individual schemes as well as the number of beneficiaries since 1997.
Chapter 4 identifies available evidence and data around the extent to which policy objectives have been achieved and considers whether this could be done effectively through an alternative programme spending mix.
Chapter 5 evaluates the effectiveness and efficiency of specific CIS programmes and examines the administrative and service delivery efficiency of these CIS payments.
Chapter 6 considers the wider impact of policy and associated programmes for intended beneficiaries over the medium to long-term.
Chapter 7 looks at child income supports in an international context as well as looking at recent trends in reforms in other countries.
Chapter 8 provides an overview of the main findings from the consultation exercise undertaken as part of the review.
Chapter 9 assesses the extent to which the objectives warrant the allocation of public funding on a current and ongoing basis and examines the scope for alternative policy or organisational approaches to achieving these objectives on a more efficient and/or effective basis. Chapter 9 also identifies those performance indicators that might be used to better monitor the performance of CIS policy and associated programmes.
Click here to download the report of the consultation seminar on the findings of this report.