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Minister Joan Burton speaking at Government buildings this evening. RTÉ/Screengrab
Budget 2014

Core payments were protected thanks to job creation - Burton

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton says that her department is making cuts of €226 million, significantly less than the €440 million originally requested.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL Protection Joan Burton says that her department had “protected core payments” and was able to do so because job creation has gotten people off the live register.

The minister said that next year her department “is making €226 million of expenditure reductions in the Budget, significantly less than the €440 million originally requested of it.”

Burton would not reveal exactly how her department reduced the budget cut required of them, citing “Budget secrets” but said that it was primarily because of a reduction in the live register of 20,000 in the past year:

Chiefly as a result of this progress, I have been able to lower the expenditure reductions required of my department to €226 million. This crucial leeway means that I can continue to protect the State Pensions, Carer’s Allowance, Disability Allowance and other core weekly payments upon which people depend.

Although the minster says that core payments have been saved, new claimants of  Jobseeker’s Allowance aged 24 and under are to receive a reduced payment of €100.

Burton said that these changes are part of a “focused shift from income support to services” and said that she wants to see an end to “passive” social welfare payments to the unemployed.

“I want it to be less like a safety net, I’d like it to be like  trampoline, it’s there to protect you but its also there to lift you up,” she said.

The budget also outlined that minimum and maximum rates of maternity benefit and adoptive benefit will be standardised at €230 per week for new applicants, something that will save approximately €30 million a year according to the Minister.

Bereavement Grant

When asked about the scrapping of the bereavement grant, Burton said that the state “offers a range of income support to those who are unfortunately bereaved.”

“If someone loses spouses or partner, there are no changes to other supports to assist with the cost of bereavement, ” she said before outlining other payments associated with the death of a family member. Burton mentioned specifically the widow and widowers pensions as well as the possibility of applying for the special needs payment scheme for funeral costs.

Telephone Allowance

The telephone allowance for older people is also to be discontinued from 1 January with savings estimated at €44 million. Burton said that her department was required to make savings on payments to older people and a decision was made to cut the telephone allowance because many older people now have access to a mobile phone. Many others avail of packages that include phone, TV and broadband she said with the telephone allowance as it is at present paid directly to Eircom.

“I was asked to prioritise core, payment travel allowance and heating allowances and I’ve done that,” she said on the question of cuts on benefits to older people.

Budget 2014: The key things to know from today’s announcement >

LIVEBLOG: Budget 2014 as it happens >

Read: Telephone allowance, maternity benefit and medical cards hit hard in Budget >

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