Fine Gael Seanad spokesperson on social protection, Senator Nicky McFadden, says that if the Minister focussed on meeting social welfare fraud targets, pain for the most vulnerable in society could be spared.
“Figures released this week by Fine Gael revealed that a staggering €316 million in social welfare overpayments were made in the last six years. That’s an unbelievable €180,000 per day. Meanwhile the Minister has been dipping into the pockets of the poor and the elderly in a bid to make savings,” she said.
“What’s more, the Government has reduced its fraud savings target to just €533.3 million for 2010, having failed to reach its stated target for 2009 by a whopping €132.5 million.
“The Government’s penchant for hacking away at basic social welfare payments, such as the State Pension and Child Benefit, as well as the Christmas bonus which enabled people to pay bills over the expensive period, to balance the books, is penalising the most defenceless members of society while allowing those who are defrauding the State to get away scot-free.”
Senator McFadden says pensioners, carers, and the disabled are living in constant fear of further punitive cuts and of what the next Budget brings.
“By the Department’s own admission, social welfare overpayments stem from fraudulent claims, the failure of recipients to report changes in their circumstances, and departmental errors. Figures revealed recently by the Department indicated that during the ash cloud crisis, the number of people presenting for social welfare payments dropped by a whopping 3,515, triggering suspicions that ‘welfare tourism’ is very much alive in Ireland.
“It is wholly unacceptable that the sick, the elderly, and the poor are continually forced to pay for this Government’s atrocious management of the economy. Focus must be shifted back to eradicating illegitimate welfare overpayments so that the more vulnerable sectors of society can be protected.”