herald

Monday 24 November 2014

€28-a-week crackdown planned for dole cheats

SOCIAL welfare cheats will have €28 a week deducted from their dole in a new crackdown.

The new rules will also apply to welfare claimants who have been overpaid by the Department of Social Protection.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is bringing in a new law to allow 15pc of their weekly social welfare payments to be taken off them directly by the Department in a bid to claw back tens of millions of euro in annual overpayments.



Emergency

Around €92m was overpaid to claimants last year, 40pc (nearly €37m) of which is estimated to have been claimed fraudulently.

The new powers in the Social Protection Bill are expected to increase the scope of the Department to recover fraudulent and accidental overpayments. Last year, it only recovered €50m of the €92.4m in overpayments.

The average amount of overpayment is just over €1,500.

Under the new deductions system, a person on jobseeker's allowance of €188 per week would repay a €1,500 overpayment within one year, with weekly deductions of €28.20.

In the past, people were able to keep €186 out of their €188 payment for their "personal needs" and could not have any more deducted without their agreement.

They were also able to claim emergency social welfare payments to replace any money they were docked.

The new rules will ban emergency payments.

The Social Protection Bill, due to be voted on by TDs this week, also contains the controversial Budget cuts, including the €10 cut in child benefit and the €325 reduction in the respite care grant.

It will be discussed in the Dail today with votes to be taken tomorrow and Thursday.

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed said it had concerns the deductions in weekly dole payments would be too much for some.

"Overpayments can result from miscommunication, misunderstanding or errors on both sides of the counter, as well as from fraud," head of policy Brid O'Brien said.

"It happens on a fairly regular basis to a variety of people.

"If that is the only means you have coming in, (the 15pc deduction) could be quite a hit."

hnews@herald.ie

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