Government may cap welfare pay


THE GOVERNMENT may look at the introduction of a ceiling on the level of welfare payments families can receive under various schemes as part of its comprehensive spending review, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has signalled.

The Department of Social Protection said yesterday it was notionally possible that a family could draw down €90,000 a year in welfare payments depending on its size and on whether it met the various eligibility criteria.

The department’s comments followed the release of figures by a Labour Party Senator which suggested one unemployed married couple with four children were receiving over €1,700 a week in payments – more than €90,000 a year under various schemes.

This is more than twice the average industrial wage.

Senator Jimmy Harte called for a cap on the amount of welfare payments a family can receive.

He suggested there could be overlapping benefits which covered similar items such as heat and clothing payable under various schemes.

He said he was not making a judgment on the family concerned but rather on the system.

In a statement the Department of Social Protection said it did not comment on individual cases. However it said it was “notionally possible that a family could draw down an income” of €90,000 “provided the family met the eligibility criteria for the various schemes.

“There is currently no ceiling on the amount of payments that a family can receive. The department does not have information on social welfare income by household.”

Commenting on the issue Ms Burton said: “These are the kind of issues I would like to have addressed in the comprehensive review of expenditure.”

Informed sources said no decisions had been taken about reforms to be introduced under the Government’s comprehensive review of spending but that the concept of the introduction of a cap or ceiling on welfare payments was possibly being kicked around.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil has called for an investigation into leaking of the confidential social welfare details of the family cited by Mr Harte.

According to figures obtained by Mr Harte, the family receives the following weekly payments: father’s disability allowance €322; guardian’s pension for child taken in €286; rent supplement €276; mother’s carer’s allowance €380; child benefit €288; and daughter (17 years) special needs €211.