herald

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Dole to be scrapped for 'lazy spongers'

CASH: Burton reveals clampdown on payouts to jobless

DOLE claimants who refuse to take up work will finally have their benefits scrapped, the Herald can reveal.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton today confirmed that her department is on the cusp of stripping hundreds of dole spongers of their weekly payments.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald, the Minister vowed: "If they don't respond, they'll lose out."

It comes as new figures reveal that 755 jobseekers have had their payments slashed since last April -- an average of over two claimants per day.

Department staff are scrutinising a vast amount of "intelligence" data collated as a result of thousands of calls, emails and letters from the public.

The Herald has learned that the department is rapidly reducing the sending out of routine letters -- and is instead deploying investigators in a bid to crackdown on suspected welfare spongers.

Airports

The minister today warned that those who do not display evidence of trying to gain employment will be tackled.

She said: "We've already cut social welfare payments to over 800 claimants.

"If there's no response whatsoever they will lose it. We're just undertaking the biggest reform of social welfare which is to change social welfare from being passive to being active.

"And the critical issue there is that we are giving people on social welfare options and opportunities around education, training and working."

Ms Burton, who is leading the Government's Yes campaign in this month's referendum, also revealed that officials are stepping up their efforts to crack down on benefit fraud.

It was recently revealed that staff working in the department's special investigation unit are being deployed at ports and airports in a bid to crack down on those suspected of "coming in and coming out" in order to collect payments.

Ms Burton told the Herald that in one recent case, department investigators monitored a Thai national who was using "eight or nine separate welfare identities".

"We have done a number of special targeted, risk profile-based examinations and audits," she said. "And we've done that in relation to people who have come to live in Ireland from other countries ... "

Ms Burton emphasised that although the large majority of claimants are honest, those who are deceitful "undermine the entire social welfare system".

hnews@herald.ie

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