SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton has refused to rule out a cut in unemployment benefit in the coming Budget, warning those who refuse work may face reduced "income support."
Last month she insisted weekly social welfare rates will not be changed in October's Budget, saying "protecting core weekly rates makes absolute sense both for the individual families who receive welfare payments and for the economy."
However, speaking yesterday at the FAI's headquarters in Abbotstown, she insisted that she "can't say" if a cut to the standard unemployment benefit payment is on the cards.
"I've said this so often before, but I can't say what the individual measures might or might not be in the Budget – the detailed discussions in Government have not yet begun," she told the Irish Independent.
"There's a strong business case for maintaining the rates at a time when we're inviting people to get back to work," she said.
"But for those people who do not engage I'm also saying hold on, this is a social contract.
"You have to co-operate with us in terms of getting back to work, and if you don't, we will look at reducing the income support that you receive."
She also announced that the number of internships taken up under the Government's controversial JobBridge scheme has now exceeded 20,000.
The internship programme has been a subject of intense debate since it was launched as part of the Government's jobs initiative in July 2011.
Its detractors argue it is a source of cheap labour, and question how many interns get a job at the end of their JobBridge posting.
Positions are available to unemployed people who are given an extra €50 a week on top of their jobseekers benefit.