Burton says sorry to the families of disabled children over 'Budget cuts'
SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton apologised yesterday to the families of severely disabled children as she officially withdrew a key Budget cut.
And she also made another change to one measure, which threatened to reduce the number of widows able to claim a full state pension, while ordering a review of yet another cut.
Ms Burton said she was dropping the proposals to cut disability payments to young people by up to €88 per week, as she introduced the Social Welfare bill to implement her Budget 2012 cutbacks.
And amid backbench disquiet, she also provided breathing space to community employment schemes, which were facing cuts of €36m.
The schemes are designed to help the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged people back to work.
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin announced a 66pc cut -- from €1,500 to €500 -- in the training and materials grants for the schemes.
Instead of implementing the cuts immediately, Ms Burton has asked the 1,143 schemes for value-for-money reviews.
"There are community and voluntary sponsoring organisations that receive funding from a multiplicity of state agencies," Ms Burton said. "These will be examined in terms of their ability to continue the programme with reduced funding."
It was also announced in the Budget that a person's entitlement to community employment payment on top of other welfare at the same time would be phased out over three years.
New entrants to the scheme from January will not be able to claim another social welfare payment at the same time.
But Ms Burton's department could not give a reason for the change to the number of contributions required for widows, widowers or the surviving civil partner to claim a full state pension of €230.30 per week.
The length of time they needed to work had been raised from three years to 10 years in the Budget.
A change announced yesterday by Ms Burton brings this back to five years. Sinn Fein TD Aengus O'Snodaigh criticised the social-welfare cuts and told Ms Burton to "shut up" and "sit down".
Ms Burton also came under attack from Fianna Fail social protection spokesman Barry Cowen, who said her cuts to lone-parents' schemes and child benefit were "anti-family" and "anti-women".
It also emerged last night that unions were concerned about the impact of another cut in the Budget, which will reduce the value of the state pension paid to certain workers.
From next September, it will result in some retiring workers who have less than a year of PRSI contributions getting a pension of €196 per week instead of €225.80. SIPTU president Jack O'Connor said the union had written to Ms Burton to express its concerns.