The Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has created even further confusion over her approach to cuts to social welfare allowances and again signalled a total abandonment of her promises to support the most vulnerable, according to Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Social Protection Barry Cowen.
 
Deputy Cowen commented, “I asked Minister Burton in the Dáil today if she is fully satisfied that households who are struggling to pay their utility bills are provided with enough support from the state, in light of the moves to slash the allowances available to them.  I was taken aback by the casual response from a Labour Minister who until now claimed to be a champion of the vulnerable. She told the Dáil today: “I am satisfied that there are sufficient supports in place to help people with their electricity, fuel and other utility bills’.
 
“She went on to point out the savings that can be achieved through energy efficiency building programmes. While these home energy schemes are of enormous benefit to those who can afford them, people who are simply unable to pay their household bills are not in a position to invest in long term saving projects.
 
“The reality is that the previous Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív initiated negotiations with services providers seeking discounts on the cost of electricity, fuel and telephone charges for struggling customers. These negotiations, with officials from the Department of Social Protection, were at an advanced stage. If the discounts were achieved, it would have offset the cuts to welfare allowances.
 
“However, the now Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton seems entirely confused about this. She denies any knowledge of these negotiations, while at the same time has said that she says received legal advice not to peruse the discussions. The Minister can’t claim both excuses – she either knew and chose to abandon them, or she just wasn’t in the picture. The Minister can’t have it both ways.
 
“Minister Burton needs to get her story straight and explain to people why she has performed her u-turn on welfare cuts. Her approach so far has been to confuse and contradict, which is extremely distressing for families around the country who are in real financial difficulty.”