THE Department of Social Protection needs another €685m to cover its costs for this year, raising the possibility of more welfare cuts in the new year.
Minister Joan Burton revealed the enormous supplementary estimate being sought by her department at a Dail Committee today.
Most of the money is needed because of a huge shortfall in PRSI contributions during 2012 which means the Exchequer will have to give an €418m more to the social insurance fund than was previously estimated.
Another €235m is needed because the numbers signing on the Live Register this year has been higher than anticipated.
The average on the Live Register during 2012 will be 437,300, around 12,000 more each month than was budgeted for.
The department's total spending is expected to €20.77bn this year, around €228m more than originally provided for.
The Department of Finance confirmed it has already factored this supplementary estimate into its total spending figures for the year.
It also has a contingency sum of €66m to allow for even worse PRSI receipts this month.
Fianna Fail's spokesman on Social Protection Willie O'Dea said: “Here we are on Budget Day and we are told hours before the Minister for Finance addresses the Dáil that there is an overrun in the Social Protection budget of nearly €700 million. This is an extraordinary amount by any standards; the Health overrun was €300 million and has been described as a crisis.
“The attempt to slip this under the radar on the morning of Budget Day is deeply cynical. The Minister needs to outline what exactly went wrong in her Department and put forward credible solutions to address the issues next year.”