DOZENS of people who failed to show any interest in getting work have had their entire €188-per-week dole payments cut off as part of a new crackdown.
The power to suspend payments for two months was introduced by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton to tackle people who repeatedly refused to turn up to interviews with social welfare staff or take up offers of jobs or training.
According to new figures from her department, 67 people have had their €188-per-week dole payments suspended for nine weeks since the power was introduced on July 15.
Social welfare officers already had the power to cut dole payments by up to €44 per week. But this is the first time the payment has been withdrawn entirely. After the nine-week period the situation is reviewed.
Those who have their dole payments cut off will still be able to get rent supplement as well as cash payments for children. And they will be able to get their dole back if they show a willingness to take up an offer of work or training.
Ms Burton said that several thousand people have now had their dole payments either docked or cut off completely.
"The message just has to go out that social welfare is a contract. Your fellow citizens support you, Irish society through the department supports you, but that's coming from all the taxpayers in the country and in return we want your positive co-operation to get back to work. That's a win-win for everybody," she said.
Ms Burton has been under pressure from the troika to introduce measures to ensure that there are strict sanctions for those who fail to take up offers of work.
So far this year, around 1,500 people have suffered the lesser sanction of having their dole payments cut by €44 per week. That is up on last year, when a total of 1,435 people had their benefit reduced and four times the rate in 2011 when just 372 people took a cut.
A spokeswoman for the department said the aim was to encourage people to attend interviews, undertake training and take up job opportunities.
"Basically, there is a right to a payment but also a matching responsibility on the jobseeker to engage with the department," she said.