The Public Accounts Committee has heard that €20m in child benefit payments are being sent to support children living abroad.

Department of Social and Family Affairs Secretary General Bernadette Lacey said it was supporting 10,000 children abroad and this would continue until the child is 18 years of age provided that one parent is living and working in Ireland.

The committee also heard 250 extra staff have been hired to deal with the increase in social welfare claims.

Ms Lacey said the unemployment rise was unprecedented and had resulted in long queues and delays, which had put pressure on staff and services.

She said there was a backlog of 70,000 claims.

The average time for processing benefit claims is now two weeks for jobseekers benefit and five weeks for job seekers allowance.