Child benefit worth £30million paid by Britain to families across the EU but Cameron admits it is 'impossible' to stop it
- UK taxpayer funds payments to 20,400 families with 34,268 children
- Almost two-thirds sent to Poland, followed by Ireland, Lithuania and Latvia
- David Cameron says no-one he has met thinks the benefits are 'sensible'
- But Prime Minister warns that under existing EU rules it cannot be blocked
- Tory MP Andrew Rosindell says claims should be blocked for five years
UK taxpayers are spending £30million-a-year sending child benefit to families who live abroad across the European Union.
David Cameron has admitted it is ‘impossible’ to stop the cash being exported each year by migrant workers whose families are spread across the continent.
But in the wake of the UKIP triumph in the European and local elections, he faces growing pressure from Tory MPs to act now, with calls for a bar on claiming welfare for up to five years after arriving in Britain.
Almost two-thirds of all child benefit exported from the UK is sent to Poland, according to latest figures released to Parliament
New figures show that last year the British taxpayer paid child benefit to 20,400 families, covering 34,268 children.
Child benefit is paid at £20.30 a week for the first child and £13.40 for every other child, regardless of parental income. It means the total bill for children living overseas is up to £30million-a-year.
There has been a slight fall since 2012, when an extra 3,682 families claimed child benefit abroad.
Each year more than £30million in child benefit is sent to families across the EU, paid for by the British taxpayer
Prime Minister David Cameron has warned it is all but impossible to tackle the problem of child benefit being sent abroad under current EU law
Almost two-thirds of the families are in Poland, claiming for 22,093 children. People in the UK are also sending child benefit to 1,231 families in Ireland for 2,505 children.
A further 1,215 in Lithuania, 797 in Latvia, 789 in France, 692 in Slovakia and 600 in Spain are all receiving child benefit from the UK Treasury.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has capitalised on warnings that the UK cannot control its own borders or welfare system while it remains a member of the European Union.
Mr Farage said the Government's three-month ban on migrants claiming benefits in Britain was not long enough. He said there should be a five year block on allowing immigrants to get any benefits.
He said: "We must be completely mad to be giving people from Eastern Europe in-work benefits.'
UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who celebrated winning the European elections this week, has warned Britain cannot control its borders or welfare system while it remains a member of the EU
Mr Cameron has vowed to tackle the problem as part of his plan to claw back powers from Brussels before staging an in-out EU referendum before 2017.
But he admits that until his negotiations begin, after the 2015 election, it is virtually impossible to stop the money being sent abroad.
Speaking earlier this month, the Prime Minister told the BBC: ‘Today if you travel and work from another European country into Britain, you can then claim child benefit and other benefits for your family back at home even though actually they’re not living in the UK and going to UK schools and all the rest of it.
'The Prime Minister should lay out his reform agenda now or face an impossible task'
Labour MP Keith Vaz
‘And under the current rules, it seems extremely difficult, if not impossible, to change that. Now I haven’t met anybody who thinks this is sensible … so that is again a really big change.’
The government insists that the ‘main purpose of child benefit is to support families in the UK’.
However, EU rules mean that social security must be paid across borders.
But ministers are drawing up plans for a new crackdown on migrants’ access to benefits to try to win back disaffected voters from Ukip.
The new push, which could see unemployed EU nationals kicked out of the country after just six months, was announced yesterday amid continued fallout from the Ukip surge in last week’s elections.
Currently, new arrivals cannot claim benefits for the first three months in the country followed by six months in which they can.
Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, said he welcome the fact that the number of children abroad to which the UK provides benefits has decreased.
He added: ''The number of children receiving benefit still remains high and despite widespread frustration without EU reform this issue will never be resolved.
'The Prime Minister should lay out his reform agenda now or face an impossible task.'
Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee
Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, who obtained the figures through a parliamentary questions, said: ‘I have a very simple view of this. I think that a common market does not mean we have a common benefits system.
‘I don’t believe that anybody coming in from the Europe Union should get any benefits at all until they are more permanently settled in this country. I think it should be five years before they get benefits – three months is not good enough.
'A common market does not mean we have a common benefits system'
Tory MP Andrew Rosindell
‘I know David Cameron says we cannot do it at the moment. I think we should.
‘If they need benefits they should return to their own country and claim benefits there.’
On January 1 new rules were introduced to stop new arrivals claiming benefits for up to three months, to deter people from coming from Romania and Bulgaria when work restrictions were lifted.
Last week figures showed that the number of people getting work from the two countries fell from 144,000 in the last three months of 2013 to the first three months of 2014.
Treasury minister Nicky Morgan said: ‘The recent changes to migrants’ access to benefits announced by the Government sends a strong message that the UK benefit system is not open to abuse, as well as deterring those who may seek residence in the UK primarily to claim benefits.
‘Strengthening compliance checks will help prevent EEA migrants from claiming, and continuing to claim,benefits they are not entitled to. Checks will be applied to both new claims and existing awards.’
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