Polish migrants living in Britain claiming £21m in child benefits for children left behind
Disparity: A chart which illustrates the generosity of benefits in the UK and the low cost of living in Eastern EuropeBritain's taxpayers are forking out more than £21million a year in child benefit for youngsters living in Poland, official figures reveal.
A loophole in EU regulations means migrants from other EU countries who are seeking work in the UK can claim state handouts for children they have left behind in their home countries.
The total benefits bill for the Treasury is likely to be closer to £50million a year when other Eastern European countries are included.
In addition, ministers refuse to reveal how much more is being paid out in tax credits. Last night, the revelations prompted demands for a shake-up of the rules, with critics complaining of a "Government-sanctioned scam" at a time when millions of British children remain in poverty.
Britain's child benefit payments of £941 per year for a first child or £629 per year for younger siblings are far higher than the equivalent paymentsin Eastern European states that are new EU members.
The Polish benefits system, for example, pays a maximum of around £160 per year in child benefit.
Investigations have found that many workers moving to Britain are fraudulently claiming family benefits in both countries, exploiting lax checks and poor information sharing between member states.
Figures released by the Treasury in answer to Parliamentary written questions from the Conservatives show that at the end of September 26,000 Polish children from 16,286 families were being paid child benefits by UK taxpayers.
That means 16,286 first-born children were receiving the full £18.10 per week with the remaining 10,000 getting the lower payment of £12.10 per week.
The figures show that the number of claimants is soaring.
In June last year, the Treasury said 14,000 families from eight Eastern European states were claiming the benefits - around 10,000 were estimated to be Polish.
Open borders: More than 700,000 workers from Eastern Europe have arrived in Britain in the four years since their countries joined the EU
Three months later the figure for Poland alone had risen to 16,286.
At this rate of increase the benefits bill could more than double in a year, with thousands more Eastern European families joining in the benefits bonanza.
Although all the payments are legal under EU law, critics claim they provide an added incentive for immigrants to come to the UK.