Child benefit for 18-year-olds in full-time education to be introduced in May

Budget 2024 measure originally planned for September will be brought forward and also applies to children with a disability

The extension of child benefit to 18 year olds in full-time education is to be brought forward earlier than planned, under a revised approach going to Cabinet on Tuesday.

The measure, which will also apply to children with a disability, was announced in Budget 2024 and was scheduled to kick in from September of this year, alongside other measures announced in the budget but designed to take effect later in the year such as increases in childcare subsidies.

However, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys will tell Ministers that her department is now in a position to implement the measure from the beginning of May. She will use social welfare legislation which is due before the Seanad this week to implement the change.

The policy change was designed as a cost-of-living measure and also to reflect that a significant number of 18 year olds are still in secondary education.


Elsewhere, the Cabinet will consider plans to establish a special Oireachtas committee to consider the recent report of the Citizens’ Assembly on drug use.

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton, who is responsible for the National Drugs Strategy, will tell the Cabinet she hopes to keep momentum behind the policy discussion and establish the committee as soon as possible.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport Jack Chambers will also brief the Cabinet on plans to introduce amendments to new road traffic legislation tackling anomalies within the current laws. They concern gardaí requiring people to wait while a drug test result is processed, and another loophole that allows motorists to avoid penalty points which would disqualify them and instead serve much shorter ancillary disqualifications.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will update Cabinet on the level of delivery last year in the housing sector. It is understood he will not yet be in a position to supply final social housing construction figures for last year, with some figures still being collated. The Government has been under pressure after undershooting its social housing target for last year, but it has not published the final figure of new social homes delivered.

Mr O’Brien will tell Cabinet colleagues that residential construction output in Ireland will grow at the strongest rate among 19 European countries at 12.3 per cent in 2023 and 2024. He will also bring the Land Development Agency’s annual report before Ministers.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe will seek Cabinet approval for the public pay deal struck with unions last month, which will run for 2½ years and cost €3.6 billion.

The Cabinet may also consider the Health Service Executive’s National Service Plan for 2024, although it was unclear on Monday evening if the item would be on the Cabinet agenda.

Separately, the Cabinet will consider how to respond to a Sinn Féin Dáil motion calling for the scrapping of the TV licence, its replacement with direct exchequer funding, and an amnesty from prosecution for people who have not paid the existing fee.

A Government decision on the future funding of RTÉ has been on hold as the Coalition awaits reports from expert groups reviewing governance, culture and HR matters at the national broadcaster.

It is likely that, subject to Cabinet approval, a Government counter motion will be tabled.

The Sinn Féin motion refers to the Future of Media Commission’s report which recommended exchequer funding for public service media as well as saying that “financial scandals at RTÉ have rocked people’s trust and confidence in the national broadcaster and the TV licence”.

Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould said on Monday: “We need a properly funded independent media that’s sustainable going forward. We feel that the Government have failed to act so we will.”

He estimated the cost of exchequer funding at €140 million for a full year.

His party colleague Pearse Doherty said that, under Sinn Féin’s proposals, a “triple lock” would be put in place to protect RTÉ's independence.

This would involve multiannual funding; the sums involved being put forward by the independent media commission; and legislation saying the Minister could only deviate from the recommended funding level in “exceptional circumstances”.

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Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times