Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has announced moves to cut child benefit and the duration of jobseekers’ allowance.

However, the rate of social welfare payments will not change next year.

Mr Howlin said the social protection ceiling for 2013 will be over €20.2 billion.

Speaking in the Dáil, he said that the rate of child benefit will be cut by €10 a month per child in respect of the first, second and third child, which will bring about a saving of €136m next year.

Currently, the child benefit rate for the first and second child is €140 and €148 for the third child, and is €160 for the fourth and each subsequent child.

Under the changes announced, from January the monthly rate for each of the first three children will be €130.

Mr Howlin said €14m will be allocated in funding to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to increase the number of childcare places available to low income workers.

An extra €2.5m in additional supports was also announced to enhance targeted early-childcare supports for children in disadvantaged areas.

Mr Howlin said the duration of jobseekers’ benefit will be reduced by three months, saving €33m in 2013 and €82m in a full year.

The primary weekly rate of social welfare payments will not be changed.

Measures were also announced to reduce telephone and electricity allowances in the Household Benefit package to achieve savings of over €80m next year.

The telephone allowance has been reduced by over half to €9.50 per month while the electricity and gas allowance has been cut by a maximum of €6 per month.

However, Mr Howlin said there will be no change to either the rate or duration of the weekly fuel allowance.

Mr Howlin said the Government will increase spending in the Departments of Social Protection and Health by €150m each.

He said our current levels of expenditure are “no more sustainable than the property bubble that once sustained them”, but “we are not going to slash and burn essential public services to satisfy particular interests, or in response to sensationalist headlines”.