Carer's allowance not to be part of single welfare payment

Thu, Apr 26, 2012, 01:00

CARERS WOULD be excluded from the proposed single social welfare payment for people of working age, the Dáil was told.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said that given the specific nature and purpose of the carer’s allowance, the Government had decided to exclude it.

“However, I wish to emphasise that no other decisions have been made regarding the structure of the single payment or whether to proceed with its introduction.”

Welcoming the Minister’s announcement, Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said those drawing the carer’s allowance had been excluded when the department originally considered the matter but they had reappeared subsequently.

Ms Burton said the carer’s allowance was fundamentally different from other schemes in terms of its objectives and measurement of a successful outcome.

“The underlying premise of the single payment is that people are available for work even if there are barriers such as disability or lack of childcare, training or education.”

Ms Burton also said the department’s control savings target for this year was €645 million, with an associated target of reviewing 985,000 individual welfare claims.

Mr Ó Snodaigh suggested the figure for social welfare fraud was €25 million, approximately 1 per cent of the entire budget.

The figure of €645 million was arrived at by the Minister and the department “through the bizarre logic of assuming a situation in which no controls or inspections were initially in place”, he claimed.

During the resumed debate on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, Ms Burton said one of its objectives was to fight against the “small number who scam the system”. If this was not addressed, confidence among ordinary contributors and claimants, who only claimed what they were entitled to, would be eroded.

Responding to Opposition criticism of the late introduction of amendments to the Bill, Ms Burton said they contained some of the most significant changes regarding the fight against the small number who were defrauding the system.

Power was being given to social welfare inspectors at ports and airports to ask questions of people coming through who might be claiming welfare but were not resident in the State.

Inspectors would also have the power to ask landlords questions where there was a rent supplement to ensure that the property in question was being used by the recipient.

“We have had indications that this is an area of particular risk and exposure in the social welfare system.”

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming said that while he understood the officials had worked hard on the amendments, they had been issued by email at about 10.50pm on Tuesday. The list came to 23 pages, which was as long as the Bill itself.

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said the Government was being unfair in not allowing proper debate on the Bill. “We very much welcome measures in the Bill to help eliminate fraud, as would every right-thinking person.”

Debate on the Bill ends today.