Sunday 25 August 2019

Department denies it docked child benefit to recoup dole fraud

 

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Anne-Marie Walsh

The Department of Social Protection has denied claims it docked a woman's child benefit payments to recoup dole fraud money.

A spokesperson said there were "no circumstances" where it sought or agreed to reduce payments made to benefit children to offset social-welfare debts.

She was responding after a court was told a woman's debt repayments for dole money she had received were deducted from her child-benefit payments.

Jelena Curlukova (46), of Lucan, Dublin, was accused of making a statement that she met the condition for getting the Jobseeker's Allowance application when her husband was self-employed.

Judge Anthony Halpin was told at Dublin District Court the woman got €6,834 and following repayments she made so far, €4,854 was outstanding.

It was claimed her repayments were deducted from her child benefit.

However, the judge told prosecution solicitors he had a difficulty with the Department of Employment and Social Affairs accepting repayments out of child benefit and felt it was unacceptable.

That money was to benefit children who could end up being deprived, he said.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on social protection Willie O'Dea said it was important child-benefit payments were not reduced "as the child has not had any part to play in the debt".

But the Department of Social Protection spokesperson said it did not accept deductions from child benefit to offset other social-welfare debts.

She said it would not comment on a case before the court for determination.

"Where evidence needs to be corrected, the department provides instruction to ensure that the court, at its next sitting, is provided with accurate information," said the spokesperson.

"There are no circumstances where the department has sought a reduction of child benefit to offset social-welfare debts."

The court case has been adjourned until November.

Irish Independent

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