‘Vast majority’ of welfare claimants getting correct entitlement
Department of Social Protection annual report reveals €7m in overpayments recovered in respect of ‘a national project’
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The “vast majority” of people on social welfare claim the correct amount due to them, the Department of Social Protection has said.
In its annual report for 2013, the department said just a small minority of claimants were not and that it employed “a range of measures” to ensure social-welfare fraud and abuse was minimised.
The department made €632 million in what it describes as “control savings” after conducting 1.1 million reviews of payments.
It said this demonstrated that its more “intense” control in recent years was having a positive impact on the level of fraud and error in the system.
There were savings of €73.5 million from fraud-control activities of the special investigation unit. The report said in 4,385 cases last year payments were stopped or reduced.
Overpayments of €7m
A small number (674) of cases of suspected fraud, relative to the department’s overall claims, went to court last year.
Some €7 million in “overpayments” in respect of a “national project” were recovered by the department, the annual report revealed. The department would not say how the figure arose and for what project. A spokeswoman said the project was “ongoing and operationally sensitive”.
Nearly 1.5 million people received weekly welfare payments last year and the department said nearly 2.3 million benefited from these when spouses, partners and children were included.
A total of 600,000 families received child-benefit payments for almost 1.2 million children during the year.
School meals cost €37m
In total, the department spent an estimated €20.23 billion in 2013. The largest spend (31.9 per cent) was on pensions and the smallest (2.8 per cent) was on administration.
Just over 27 per cent of spending was on income supports. A total of €2.3 billion (11.2 per cent) was on children, while 16.8 per cent was on illness, disability and carers.
A total of €37 million was spent on school meals, with priority given to disadvantaged schools, the department said. The back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance cost almost €48 million.
The department paid about €36 million in “exceptional-need” payments to help meet “essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure” for items such as household appliances, furniture and clothing.
Projected spending for 2014 is €19.6 billion reflecting, said the department, ongoing rises in employment.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said the best way of reducing welfare expenditure was by getting people back to work. “Every 10,000 fall in the Live Register saves approximately €95 million.” She said the vast majority of people on the Live Register had an “incentive to work” as they received just €188 or less a week .