Saturday 17 March 2018

Ministers rule out welfare cap as 'crude instrument'

Leo Varadkar: 'a non-runner'
Leo Varadkar: 'a non-runner'

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE Government has ruled out bringing a cap on social welfare earnings in the Budget because it would be a "crude instrument".

Ministers moved to crush the prospect of a British-style welfare cap on the grounds that it could negatively affect the 50,000 families getting child benefit for four or more children.

Fine Gael Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton publicly voiced their opposition, and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is also understood to be strongly opposed. A government source said the welfare cap was "not a runner".

Labour suspected that the welfare cap proposal, which was reported on by a Sunday newspaper, came from the Fine Gael side of government.

It was not proposed by Ms Burton's Department of Social Protection – and recent documents show that it was ruled out conclusively just last month.

In an information briefing for companies interested in being paid to find jobs for those on the dole, social welfare officials said there were currently "no plans to introduce benefit capping".

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that while a welfare cap might sound like a good idea, it was a very crude instrument. "And where it's been applied in other countries, it hasn't worked so well, particularly because it often affects households where there are a lot of children," he said.

Mr Varadkar said that while a family might appear to be getting large welfare payments, the picture was very different when it emerged that it included 10 children, two carers and a disabled person. He said that he agreed 100pc with Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, who made similar points during her interview on RTE's Marian Finucane show.

She said a welfare cap could affect the 50,000 families with more than four children who were getting €130 per month per child – and could also be qualifying for jobseekers' allowance and medical cards if the parents were out of work.

Ms Burton said she had received no detailed proposals on a welfare cap. As the Budget talks continued, there were further conflicting signals from Government about whether the current €3.1bn Budget adjustment target would be maintained. Fine Gael Junior Minister for European Affairs Pascal Donohoe told RTE's The Week in Politics that the Government could look at an adjustment of less than €3.1bn.

It is understood Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is set to continue to press for this at Labour's annual think-in event in Enfield in Meath today by telling TDs the Budget would not put "stability at risk" but would not put "recovery at risk" either. However, Fine Gael Junior Minister Brian Hayes sounded a more cautious note saying that the Government has much room to manoeuvre on the adjustment of €3.1bn.

Irish Independent

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