THOUSANDS of jobless could have their dole payments reduced after nine months as part of the Budget plans.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is looking at the possibility of having means testing of payments start three months sooner than now.
At present, those who have paid PRSI and have been made unemployed are entitled to a jobseekers' benefit of €188 a week for up to a year.
After this, if the individual hasn't found work, they are then means tested and allocated a jobseekers' allowance.
Last week Minister Burton told the Herald that the social welfare system must be in place to assist those looking for a job.
"Social welfare must be a trampoline, not a cushion. I want to reform the system so that it does more to actively help people get back into employment," she said.
There are indications that unemployment benefits could be seriously cut in the Budget.
The Government is under pressure from the Troika to make drastic changes to the social welfare system.
Reducing the dole payment period to nine months could save up to €90m a year.