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'Welfare queens'

• Your report that "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", has a familiar ring to it.

In the US, in the last decades of the 20th Century, actions that emanated from Ronald Reagan's ideas regarding 'welfare queens' -- a jibe at lone parents, which claimed that they procreated just to access benefits -- began to take hold.

The demonisation led directly to a process known as "churning". The relevant government department increased the amount of information and paperwork required to determine eligibility and low-income families who failed to keep up with the paperwork had their benefits stopped.

As always, with these things, the most vulnerable people are placed in the very serious danger of getting cut off, resulting in the loss of their allowances on which they totally depend.

Clearly, and particularly where children are concerned, cutting off payment should only follow after a welfare officer has confirmed that the failure to respond to letters sent, etc, is not due to valid reasons, such as illness or an inability to understand.

But perhaps the most amazing aspect of this case is the fact that this high-handed behaviour, of exposing people to the abrupt loss of income, in such an arbitrary fashion, is under the supervision of a member of the Labour Party.

Jim O'Sullivan
Rathedmond, Sligo

Irish Independent