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YOU MUST BE KIDDING; GOVERNMENT SLAMMED AS WORLD ECONOMIC CRISIS DEEPENS Fury at plan to means test children's allowance Ministers told move will hit poor families hard.

Byline: BY MICHELLE O'KEEFFE

THE Government was warned yesterday means testing for the children's allowance will plunge thousands of youngsters into poverty.

Hard-pressed parents will be hit worst if ministers target the benefit in a desperate bid to stave off the recession.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan wants to introduce the test, which would result in struggling households losing out on crucial income for basic necessities.

Labour's Family Affairs spokeswoman Roisin Shortall said: "We are completely against the children's allowance being means-tested - this benefit is universal.

"The tax system does not make allowances for the amount of kids you have so the children's allowance makes up for this.

"Families rely on this benefit to care for their children.

"If the Cabinet decide to means test this it will leave thousands of families struggling to provide vital basics for their children."

The Budget in two weeks is expected to be the toughest since 1983 - the last time the country was officially in recession.

ISPCC director of service Caroline O'Sullivan added: "It is important to remember there are families out there that rely massively on the children's allowance and would be under huge pressure if it was taken away from them.

"A lot of people depend on the children's allowance to pay bills, get clothes for their kids and put food on the table. Often parents have to wait to get the children's allowance before they can buy basic items for their kids like shoes, winter coats or school uniforms.

"Parents do spend the children's allowance on their kids so it will be the youngsters of our country that will lose out if the Government goes ahead with this in the Budget.

"The problem is that if this move went ahead in the Budget families that are on the border-line regarding their income and could be slightly above the quota would be plunged into poverty.

"There are lots of families out there that are earning reasonable money but are still struggling to run their households.

"It is even more difficult for people now with people struggling with the credit crunch and rising prices.

"People who would be just above the amount they are allowed to earn before losing the children's allowance would be hit by really rough times and would not be able to provide the basics for their children.

"We don't welcome the idea that the children's allowance could be targeted in the Budget.

"But if the Government does go ahead with this move they must think very carefully about the amount they say a household can earn before they lose the children's allowance or a lot of families will be left in harrowing circumstances."

Labour Senator Phil Prendergast added: "The Government has no right to leave parents not able to provide for their children properly.

"They must keep their hands off this benefit and look at other ways to tackle the country's recession in the upcoming Budget."

1983 Last time the country was in recession

If the Cabinet decide to means test this it will leave thousands struggling to provide basics ROISIN SHORTALL, LEFT, SPEAKING YESTERDAY

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PLAN Brian Lenihan
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 30, 2008
Words:520
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