THE DEPARTMENT of Social Protection has reported savings of over €645 million following a comprehensive review of welfare payments and a renewed clampdown on fraudulent claims.
Joan Burton says the savings follow a review of 982,000 individual welfare claims for social welfare payments, and significantly exceeded the target of €540 million set this time last year.
Included in the savings are over €60 million saved in anti-fraud measures after investigations by the Department’s new Special Investigation Unit, which received almost 17,000 tip-offs last year.
Burton said over 30,000 fraud investigations and inquiries have been completed, with 174 cases referred to Gardaí for possible investigation under the Criminal Justice (Theft & Fraud Offences) Act.
The Department said in a statement that special projects “such as non-residency and multiple claiming … have been particularly successful”.
A breakdown of the overall €645m savings showed that €167 million of spending was cut under the one-parent family benefit, and €142 million from pensions.
€88 million was saved through a review of child benefit, and another €82 million was cut in jobseekers’ allowances and benefits.
Burton said the savings showed “our commitment to tackling fraud and abuse of the social welfare system across our broad range of schemes.”
The €645 million figure reflects the Department’s expectations as to how much it would have spent on benefits, over time, but for the new investigations. It is not an annual figure.
“A key priority for my Department is to ensure that fraudulent activity within the social welfare system is vigorously prevented and combated,” Burton said.
“Social welfare fraud undermines public confidence in the entire system as well as being unfair to other recipients of social welfare payments, taxpayers and businesses run on a legitimate basis.”