Drive to crack down on child benefit fraud reaps €70m each year
A major drive is ongoing to cut down on the level of child benefit fraud, as parents are still being issued with certificates to complete to ensure they are still entitled to the payments.
Child benefit is paid to some 615,000 families in respect of 1.18 million children, with an expenditure of approximately €1.9bn last year.
"In order to ensure that child benefit is only paid to eligible families, a policy of issuing continuing eligibility certificates to parents commenced in 2008 and is still in operation," a Department of Social Protection spokesperson said.
"The child benefit control programme is kept under regular review, based on the outcomes achieved, to ensure that controls in place to prevent fraud and abuse continue to be effective and relevant.
"The department undertook approximately 400,000 continuing eligibility reviews of child benefit customers in 2014.
"This control activity generated some €70m in savings in respect of expenditure that would otherwise have occurred," the spokesperson said.
The certs are being issued to beneficiaries in both Ireland and the EU, who are paid by electronic funds transfer and based on their residency in Ireland this year.
Independent TD Denis Naughten said that there was no doubt that these review forms have a huge financial return.
"Those review forms are pulling in about €70m a year, which is a phenomenal amount of money.
"But my concern with it is, this is coming in every year. There is something fundamentally wrong with the system if they are detecting this scale of overpayment in their control review, so something needs to change.
"What they need to do is link up the Department of Social Protection, with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Education and Science, and then they will know what children are enrolled at the start of the year," he said.