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Airport and rent inspectors will be used to combat welfare fraud

Welfare fraud inspectors will be deployed to all entry and exit points to the country.

Image: James Horan/Photocall Ireland

THE DEPARTMENT OF Social Protection is hoping to give powers to inspectors to catch social welfare fraudsters at ports and airports across the country.

The move hopes to combat citizens from other EU countries flying in each month to claim state benefits.

The fraud control measures are to be included as a late amendment in the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2012 at Committee Stage, Minister Joan Burton said today.

Social Welfare inspectors will be allowed to detect welfare abuse by working more closely with officials at all entry points into the country. The Department said these increases in power will enhance inter-agency co-operation and enable more targeted and productive operations.

However, the proposed legislation will stop short of requiring the handing over of passenger lists.

Any EU citizen can receive jobseeker’s benefits as long as they have paid 104 weeks of PRSI since first starting work and 26 weeks paid in the relevant tax year and 26 in the previous year.

Landlord requests

The new powers will also be given to Inspectors to make enquiries of landlords in relation to the occupants of a house where Rent Supplement is paid to a tenant towards the cost of their rent.

The department hopes this will give it a further means of ensuring the payment is being made correctly.

Jobseekers

Current Jobseeker’s Benefit arrangements work on the basis a six-day week but the department wishes to reduce this to a five-day week. In other words, for each day that a person is unemployed, one-fifth (instead of one-sixth) of the normal rate of the benefit is payable.

According to Burton, this reform will mean that there will be a greater incentive for part-time workers on this scheme to return to full-time employment.

Savings

Earlier this year, the Department of Social Protection said it had saved more than €645 million following a clampdown on fraudulent claims.

Included in the savings are over €60 million saved in anti-fraud measures after investigations by the Special Investigation Unit, which received almost 17,000 tip-offs last year.

More than 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.

Special projects such as non-residency were particularly successful, according to the investigation unit.

€645m saved through social welfare ‘control measures’>

Changes to single parent payments proposed in Social Welfare bill>

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