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Sunday 19 November 2017

Joan Burton: Cuts in social welfare won’t be anything like €700m

Joan Burton. Photo: Frank McGrath
Joan Burton. Photo: Frank McGrath reporters

SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton today claimed that reports of cuts of €700m in her department were inaccurate.

"I would be very confident we are not talking about a figure like that," she said on RTE Radio today.

The Minister said there had been a lot of midnight oil burnt by the cabinet going through the figures and it was her understanding that "nothing would be agreed until everything is agreed".

She pointed out that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had been going through the figures line by line because there would be a very tough budget in an attempt to get the country back on its feet.

It was reported in today’s Irish Times that originally Ms Burton was told to find savings of €822m from her department but with unemployment at 447,000 she argued successfully that a cut of that magnitude was not feasible.

Social protection will now account for €700m of the €2.2bn in cuts required, it claimed.

It is the largest spending department paying welfare, pension and benefits to 1.4m people each month with an annual budget of €21bn.

Ms Burton highlighted the fact that while her department's budget was one of the largest in terms of total spend, both the IMF and the Troika had already made it clear that they didn't want to see excessive austerity which would in turn hit the recovery process.

However the Minister admitted that no decisions had been made on the Troika preferred method of social welfare recipients being part of a one payment process.

"I'm astonished at the number of schemes - up to 60 schemes and conditions," she added.

Ms Burton said that the government was immediately making a fund of €10m available for victims of last week’s flooding. "I went to see the disaster for hundreds of families along the East Coast and Dublin," she explained, adding that community welfare officers were going door to door in the affected areas.

She said there would be emergency payments for people who met the means test requirements and had not had their properties insured.

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