€1.2 million in overpayments to almost 500 jobseekers last year

Overpayment averaged €2,469 for each of 486 recipients aged 25 or under

Jobseekers queuing for allowances in Dublin. The C & AG report found  under 25s receiving the allowance has dropped significantly to 30,019 since it peaked in October 2010 at close to 100,000. File photograph: Frank Miller

Jobseekers queuing for allowances in Dublin. The C & AG report found under 25s receiving the allowance has dropped significantly to 30,019 since it peaked in October 2010 at close to 100,000. File photograph: Frank Miller

 

An estimated €1.2 million in overpayments was made to almost 500 unemployed people on the jobseeker’s allowance last year, according to the annual report of the State’s financial watchdog.

It represents an average overpayment of €2,469 to each of 486 recipients between January and December last year.

The allowance is a means-tested payment to an unemployed person between 18 and 66 years of age. A reduced rate of €102.70 is paid to those between 18 and 24 while a 25-year-old receives €147.80 and those over 26 receive €193.

The Comptroller & Auditor General (C & AG) reported that a total of 30,019 people aged 18 to 25 receive the job seeker’s allowance.

The financial watchdog analysed the group of 5,225 claimants in the 18 to 25 age bracket who were on the maximum personal rate payment for that cohort of €193 a week.

An audit showed that 4,739 were entitled to the payment but 486 “did not meet the qualifying conditions for payment of the maximum personal rate”.

The C & AG recommended that there should be “a greater level of quality control checking” and that the rules for qualification should be programmed into the claim handling system to prevent overpayments.

It also recommended training “to ensure all staff are aware of the rules and regulations”.

The immediate response of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social in the wake of the audit was to instruct that all jobseeker’s allowance payments should be decided by just two officers in each centre.

Management in each centre will from now on carry out “10 per cent sampling of all under 26 jobseeker’s allowance claims awarded each week”.

Figures show the numbers under 25 receiving the allowance has dropped significantly to 30,019 since it peaked in October 2010 at close to 100,000.

Last year 24,794 (83 per cent) of recipients were on a reduced rate while 5,225 (17 per cent) were on the maximum €193 payment.