The parents of all children born from the start of 2019 will receive the same amount of child benefit, 163.20 euro/month. Up until now the level of child benefit was lower for the first child and increased for the second child, increasing further for the third or more children born into the same family.
Smaller families with young children are the big winners under the new system, while under the old system larger families with older dependent children got the most child benefit. The changes have been made to better suit the needs of modern families.
The new level of child benefit (163.20 euro/month) will only be applicable to children born from 1 January 2019. A 65,000 children are predicted to be born to families in our region from 2019. The old system will remain in force for children born before 1 January
Nevertheless there are also big changes afoot for children born before 1 January 2019. In addition to basic child benefit a number of addition payments will be made. These include the school bonus, a sum paid out at the end of August to help parents manage the extra cost incurred by their child (ren) starting a new school year.
There is also the toddler allowance that will be given to parents if they send their child to nursery school. There will also be an allowance payable to the parents of children that go to crèches that charge market rates. This is around a quarter of children that go to crèches in our region.
More funding is being given to expand and strengthen existing measures. For example, the system of bursaries for students is being bolstered.
Poorer families will also be entitled to social allowances. Previously, only families that live on benefits were entitled to such allowances. From 1 January those in work that are on lower incomes (less than 31,000 euro/year gross) will also be entitled to a little extra help.
Nevertheless, poverty action group, the trade unions, health mutuals and the left-of-centre opposition have all criticised the new system. They believe that the Flemish Government should do more to help poorer families rather than raising the basic level of child benefit for all.