[...] these are the figures for the number of children for which child benefit is claimed for each of these regions:13,613,265 of them in total, yet I remember quoting far fewer in an article a few months ago. So I checked the ONS figures again and, yes, they show the total number of under 16s in the UK for 2009 to be 11,166,900.
Northern Ireland 443,110
That's benefit being paid for 2,446,365 more kids than there are in the population! Or - at the current rates of £20.30 for the first born and £13.40 for others - between £1.7bn and £2.6bn per year.
Now, I realise there are anomalies such as ex-pats claiming, and EU nationals working here who qualify, but by the same token there will be ex-pats being paid out of other countries' funds and so these things should cancel each other out to a fair degree. A 2.5m net gain of kids seems to be an unusually large figure for our HMRC to have to cater for.
I feel a FOIA request coming on.