05/10/2011

Welfare Fraud Crackdown Continues

An Oireachtas committee will meet today to discuss current and future proposals to tackle social welfare fraud.

The Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education will meet will discuss ways to stop people from fraudulently claiming benefits to which they are not entitled.

Almost €345 million has been saved last year by fraud and control measures implemented by the department giving some indication as to the scale of the problem.

Officials from the Department of Social Protection will also report on the progress made since the implementation of previous proposals. These are recommendations are contained in the 2009 Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs Report on Social Welfare Fraud.

The Government aims to achieve €625m in savings next year by cracking down on social welfare fraud.

It is proposing a team of inspectors on the ground to conduct spot checks on work places.

There are also plans to impose stiffer penalties on employers and workers who engage in social welfare fraud.

Meanwhile a new identity card to tackle social welfare fraud is to be rolled out on a phased basis, beginning this week.

4,000 people of working age will be issued with cards by the end of the year.

The card is the same size as a credit card, and it incorporates a biometric photo and signature, and electronically coded information.

Samples of the card were shown to members of the committee this morning.

Anne Vaughan, assistant secretary at the Department of Social Protection, said the card will be rolled out as securely and as speedily as possible, and it will take a number of years to complete.

Chairman of the Committee Deputy Damien English said: "Social welfare has been put in place to protect the more vulnerable and less well-off people in society and is a necessary safety net for many who have fallen on hard times. However, some people are only too willing to take advantage of the system. This fraud and abuse of the system is unacceptable."

(LB/BMcC)

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