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‘Nobody is gaming welfare system’, says minister

The Dail is meeting to approve a revised estimate for the Department of Social Protection to continue to fund welfare payments.

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(Steve Humphreys/PA)

(Steve Humphreys/PA)

(Steve Humphreys/PA)

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has rejected claims that people are “gaming” the social welfare system.

The Dail is sitting to approve 5.5 billion euro in additional funding for the Department of Social Protection to continue to fund social welfare payments.

More than six billion euro has been spent on social protection support and unemployment payments for workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, Ms Doherty said the new payment system is not perfect and was introduced at “breakneck speed”.

Yes, there is fraud, and there is fraud in every system and every other country. We are catching those people but they are in very small numbersRegina Doherty

“Can I just disassociate myself and anybody else who has wrongly intimated that people are gaming the system.

“Yes, there is fraud, and there is fraud in every system and every other country. We are catching those people but they are in very small numbers. There is nobody gaming the system.

“There are some people getting more from it than they would have been earning in income and there are anomalies with part-time workers.”

Ms Doherty said she hoped the house approves the bill to allow future social welfare payments to continue.

“The failure to approve the estimates will mean my department won’t have a legal basis to continue with the payments which would be devastating for the people we are meant to serve.”

Ms Doherty has told the house that an extra 6.8 billion euro is needed – 4.3 billion euro of which will go towards the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the wage subsidy scheme.

She said all payments will stop without the approval.

“Child benefit, pensions, carers payments, payments to lone parents, payments to people with disabilities and much more besides, including our community employment and all of our employment services – indeed our carer’s respite grant which is due next week.

“Without the approval today, we can’t proceed to make the necessary arrangements next week to process the due payments and all of our payments will cease.”   

Fianna Fail’s Willie O’Dea said TDs are being asked to vote on billions of euro in extra funding without information on how long Covid-19 payments will continue for.

The Government were happy to take the plaudits to increase the social welfare payment to 350 euro per week but they want to shirk the responsibility regarding how long this will continueWillie O'Dea

“We are all familiar with the expression ‘I can’t believe what I’m hearing’ – well I can’t believe what I’m not hearing.

“We’re being asked today to vote in the house on a sum of six thousand, eight hundred and 40 million euro increased money for social welfare payments, which I welcome, of course, but without any information as to the future of this particular payment.”

Mr O’Dea said while it is welcome the Covid-19 unemployment payments will be extended beyond June, people need certainty on the payment.

“We are still without an announcement on when this will be paid until. It seems to me that the Government were happy to take the plaudits to increase the social welfare payment to 350 euro per week but they want to shirk the responsibility regarding how long this will continue.”

Ms Doherty said she will bring forward proposals for some changes to the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment next week.

PA