Tuesday 20 February 2018

Burton won't say if benefit cuts will be reversed

Eilish O'Regan and Patricia McDonagh

NEW Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has refused to give a commitment to reverse controversial cuts in benefits for blind people and carers, or to guarantee child benefit will not be cut further.

Speaking in the Dail, Ms Burton said the coalition couldn't guarantee that child benefit would not be slashed -- and said it would be the subject of budgetary discussions.

It came as Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted he could not say when the cut in the minimum wage would be reversed.

Mr Kenny said legislation could be required to bring in the change -- and that the move would also need approval under the EU/IMF deal.

Ms Burton's stance on child-benefit rates comes following election promises by the Labour Party that parents would not see the payment reduced.

The previous Fianna Fail-led administration reduced the payment by €10 per month for first and second children, to €140 per month.


Payments for a third child were cut by €20 to €167 a month, while claimants received €177 a month for fourth and subsequent children.

However, Ms Burton said while the Government would seek to protect the poor, decisions on the child benefit payment rate had yet to be made.

"The Programme for Government contains a commitment to maintain social welfare rates. I cannot at this time give an explicit commitment on child benefit rates," she said.

She did, however, confirm her intention to ensure that benefit payments only be given to children living in Ireland.

The minister also announced a new national advocacy service for people with a disability at a conference in Dublin.

She was part of the Opposition that opposed cuts imposed by the last Government.

But Ms Burton could not say if the cuts would be reversed.

"We have given a commitment not to make any further reductions," she said.

The new advocacy service, run by the Citizens Information Board, will see a team working nationwide on behalf of individuals with a physical or intellectual disability.

Deirdre Carroll, chief executive of Inclusion Ireland, the organisation representing people with an intellectual disability, welcomed the service.

Irish Independent

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