Opposition TDs and children's charities have called on the Government to give a clear undertaking that child benefit payments will not be linked to school attendance, a proposal put forward in the Programme for Government.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten said the plan is not about cutting the payment and is designed to improve school attendance.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Today with Sean O'Rourke, Tanya Ward of the Children’s Rights Alliance said that the proposal by Government was more an "anti-fraud" measure than something that would encourage school attendance.

Ms Ward said that Child Benefit is a "universal payment" and the only payment given for raising a child.

Withdrawing the payment because of school absenteeism would have a "very detrimental and negative effect", she said.

Ms Ward said that the CRA was "as concerned as anyone" with school completion.

She said investment in disadvantaged educational supports and in school programmes would be the best way to deal with school drop-out rates.

Ms Ward also said that no research showed that "coercion like this" would improve school completion numbers.

She said taking child benefit from disadvantaged families would do nothing to address child poverty.

Speaking on the same programme, a spokesperson for the National Parents Council said that the Council would have concerns in amalgamating the databases covering school attendance and child benefit.

Paul Mooney said Child Benefit is for the family and that a family will suffer if the benefit is removed. He added that the proposal could also pose a problem in relation to data protection.

However, Mr Naughten has said linking the Department of Social Protection to school absentee databases will help to identify children who do not exist or are no longer resident in the country and end child benefit payments being fraudulently made to them. 

Minister Naughten told RTE's News at One that the measure was "absolutely not" about cutting Child Benefit from children who miss school, but would help to reduce fraud by linking up the systems of Tusla, the Department of Education and the Department of Social Protection.

Minister Naughten said 1,500 children in 2012 did not progress from primary school to secondary school, some left the country, but many left education.

Earlier, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said nothing will be done in any way that creates the possibility of anyone feeling as though they are being punished.

However, he said a database is to be created to monitor cases where children fail to attend secondary school and what happens to Child Benefit during that period.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland he said: "We have a challenge in relation to what happens to Child Benefit for a few cases for children who are in primary school or then they don't either go into secondary school or complete their secondary school attendance," said Mr Donohoe.

"We have an awareness of an issue regarding what happens to Child Benefit across that period. We want to have a single integrated database that is more clear on when children attend primary school, do they then go on to secondary school."

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have criticised the proposals.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: "The proposal contained in the Programme for Government to link the payment of child benefit to school attendance is deeply worrying.

"It would undoubtedly impact on the most vulnerable families and children in our society, and would do nothing to address the issues relating to school absenteeism."