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Child welfare suspended to over 5,600 in swoop


Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton


CHILD benefit payments to over 5,600 people have been suspended for January – because they failed to respond to a Department check on their residency details and entitlements.

The Department of Social Protection contacted 63,000 recipients by post last September.

This was to confirm that they still reside in Ireland and satisfy the conditions for child benefit.

Any of those who did not write back within 42 days had their payments suspended.

This resulted in them going without children's allowance this month.

The Department says payments will be reinstated – but only after people provide the required information.

Minister Joan Burton’s Department also confirmed that the arrears will be paid once entitlement has been confirmed.

The Department says this is part of their ongoing control work to ensure resources go to those who need them most.

It was revealed last week that the reporting of suspected social welfare fraud has risen dramatically with new figures showing anonymous tip-offs increased from about 600 in 2005 to more than 16,000 in 2010.

Minister Burton suggested the “sharp increase” could be interpreted as identifying a “cultural shift” in Irish attitudes towards ongoing breaches of the law. Tolerance for bending the rules applying to social welfare payments appears to have dropped as the effects of the recession continue to be felt.

“There has been a sharp increase in the numbers contacting the department anonymously. You could say there has been a cultural shift in people’s attitudes to making such reports,” Ms Burton said.

“But I think it is principally a feeling that, at a time when resources are limited, many feel strongly that those limited resources should be used for the benefit of people who need them most,” she added.

Year-on-year comparative figures show that just 621 anonymous reports were received in 2005, and that this number dropped to 579 the following year.

The next year, 2007, saw the amount of tip-offs rise slightly to 604.

There was a substantial increase in 2008, when a total of 1,044 anonymous reports were received, but that figure was increased six-fold in 2009, when a total of 6,429 tip-offs were recorded.

Last year saw the previous year’s figure almost double to 12,648, and 2011 has seen the highest number of anonymous reports ever recorded: a total of 16,142 to the end of November.