Thursday 19 October 2017

Social welfare cheats to be 'named and shamed' and have benefits cut

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD at the publication of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2017 at Government Buildings, Dublin. (Gareth Chaney, Collins)
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD at the publication of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2017 at Government Buildings, Dublin. (Gareth Chaney, Collins)
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Perpetrators of welfare fraud are to face tougher penalties and the prospect of being 'named and shamed' under legislation proposed by Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.

At present, the only penalty many convicted of the crime face is repaying the money they took, he said.

"I don't think that's an adequate penalty," Mr Varadkar added, saying that in such cases fines may or may not be imposed.

The proposed Social Welfare and Pensions Bill would see convicted benefits fraudsters suffer cuts to benefits payments they receive for nine weeks.

The names and addresses of convicted individuals - including penalties imposed on them - would also be published by the department on a quarterly basis.

Mr Varadkar hopes to have the legislation enacted before the Dáil and Seanad's summer recess.

His department recently kicked off an advertising campaign encouraging the public to report people they suspect of welfare fraud.

Mr Varadkar responded to criticism of the campaign saying that while such fraud may be "relatively uncommon", if even 0.5pc of claims are bogus it still amounts to €100m.

"Even a tiny saving from a campaign like this can be recycled and used and given to those who are honest and who are entitled to these payments," he said.

Other measures in the bill include measures to provide greater protection for members of defined benefit pension schemes.

An employer who wants to stop making contributions to such a scheme will be required to give trustees 12 months' notice of their intention to do so.

The law will also require that they engage in discussions with trustees on how they can deal with any deficit in the scheme during that period.

Irish Independent

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