Substantial savings can be made if Social Welfare fraud is tackled head-on by Minister Joan Burton and her Department, which could prevent the targeting of the most vulnerable, according to Fianna Fáil TD for Longford/Westmeath, Robert Troy.

Deputy Troy stated: “40% of Government spending goes on the Social Welfare Department and in the first eight months of this year, €500 million worth of savings were made in tackling Social Welfare fraud.

“I have been informed by experienced departmental officials that, at a conservative estimate, 10% of the departmental budget is affected by fraudulent claims. The Minister should use the Croke Park agreement to redeploy public service staff to each social welfare office to support the good work of the Department’s fraud officials.  Strong penalties need to be imposed for a blatant fraudulent claim.  A more rigorous assessment system would remove the need for such brutal cuts.”

Deputy Troy added that Minister Burton made a lot of unfair and wrong decisions in her budget submissions.

“The changes to PRSI for people who earn just over €18,500 will not do much to encourage people to return to employment. The jobs strategy introduced by the Government just after it entered office proved to be a disaster. More people are unemployed now than in 2011. The Government has done nothing about the two highest overheads with which small businesses must address; namely, rent and rates. 

“What has happened to the Labour Party’s red line issue of the cuts in child benefit?  On 10 December 2010, the Minister stated that child benefit had succeeded in lifting children out of poverty because there was no means test.  Barnardos has described this budget as regressive, unfair, unsustainable and disproportionately targeted the poorest people. 

The people who earn a couple of hundred thousand euro a year and have a couple of children get the same as people with a couple of children who earn €10,000.

“Carers are the only section of society who earn the money they are paid. They earn it because they have to undergo a rigorous assessment. Under the Minister’s watch they wait eight months for payment. They must prove that they provide full-time care.  They are saving this State €4 billion annually and they are keeping people out of long-term care in nursing homes. They do it not for the €200 a week and to have their respite Care Grant cut is a terrible decision and morally wrong.

“We should be protecting the most vulnerable members of society. Instead of cutting the Respite Care Grant, the Government should go after the people who are fraudulently claiming social welfare. It should increase taxation for those who can afford to pay it and cut child benefit for the people who do not wish to take it. 

“Fianna Fáil’s alternative budget proposals ring fenced funding for education, disability and mental health services, therefore preventing any cuts to these. The Budget proposals from this Government were deeply unfair and I would appeal to the local Government deputies to put pressure on the Minister to reverse these callous cuts.”