Wednesday 22 October 2014

Cutting dole after six months part of hit list

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Published 04/12/2012 | 05:00

CUTTING the dole after some people have been jobless for just six months is among Budget hits that are also expected to include reducing back-to-school allowances and carers' grants.

The full raft of welfare cuts being proposed by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton are revealed in a confidential Cabinet document seen by the Irish Independent.

The Labour Party deputy leader also wants to clamp down on welfare fraud, and has tabled a menu of savage cuts to rein in spending by €435m.

They include:

• Anyone without five years of PRSI payments behind them will only be entitled to the full dole for six months, down from the current nine months. They will then move on to a means-tested system, and face having their payments cut. Those with the required number of PRSI payments will have their allowance from a full dole cut from a year to nine months.

• Cutting the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance from €150 to €100 for children aged between four and 11, and from €250 to €200 for those between 12 and 17, and also for full-time students up to the age of 22.

• Abolishing a €300 allowance for the unemployed, disabled, lone parents and other welfare recipients who want to go back to secondary school or return to third-level education.

• Cutting child benefit payments by €10 for the first three children, with the fourth and subsequent children also knocked down to €130 from January 2014.

• Cutting the gas and electricity package for the elderly, and cutting the telephone allowance entirely. However, it is believed the telephone allowance will be halved rather than abolished.

• Reducing an annual grant paid to carers, the Respite Care Grant, by €200, bringing it down to €1,700. This could also be brought down by a further €100.

• Reducing "exceptional needs payments", which are one-off payments given when someone cannot be expected to cover a big item of expenditure from their weekly income. The payments can cover funeral costs, as well as visiting relatives in hospital or prison.

• Tightening up the means testing for Farm Assist payments and other payments to self-employed.

• Stopping the rebate for employers on statutory redundancy payments.

The confidential memo went to Cabinet last week.

Sources said the vast majority of the cuts are still likely to be included in the Budget tomorrow, even though some have been removed. The entire budgetary package will not be finalised until Wednesday morning.

But two other proposals from Ms Burton are believed to have been rejected by other ministers. These include abolishing the bereavement grant of €850 paid to surviving spouse, civil partners or dependant children when a loved one dies, to cover funeral costs, as well as cutting the half-rate carer's allowance for new claimants.

"We were just irked that she put herself out as the protector of the oppressed when she had put forward this package," a coalition source said. "She actually had to be talked out of a couple of cuts."

Irish Independent

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