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Government funds to pay for funerals halved since 2011

A review of the guidelines for Exceptional Needs Payments was carried out in 2012.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

EXCEPTIONAL NEEDS PAYMENTS have been slashed in half over the last four years according the Department of Social Protection.

The payments are made on a urgent basis for costs such as funerals, children’s clothing or home furnishings.

Applications for the payments are made through social welfare offices and applicants are not automatically entitled to a payment, they are assessed on the basis of need.

A parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív sought to find out the total paid out by the Department of Social Protection over the lifetime of the current government.

A similar inquiry from the Socialist Party’s Ruth Coppinger TD also wanted figures for payments and successful applications in her constituency.

Tánaiste Joan Burton outlined that there had been a review of guidelines for the payments carried out in 2012.

It’s clear from the figures provided that since this review here has been a reduction in both the number of exceptional needs payments made and the overall amount paid out by the department.

PastedImage-99330 Source: Oireachtas.ie

In 2011, the total made available for Exceptional Needs Payments was €62.6 million with the Tánaiste confirming that the corresponding figure for this year has been reduced to €31.3 million. Last year the total expenditure was €35.7 million

“A review of the guidelines on exceptional needs payments was carried out during 2012 by a working group of staff from the department’s community welfare service,” Burton told the Dáil back in September.

This review has been used as a basis for revised guidelines that issued to staff in 2012 and 2013, recommending maximum amounts payable under the scheme for a variety of household and personal items.

The Tánaiste added that, even though new guidelines have been introduced, staff in her department still have the same discretionary powers to make a decision about granting a payment.

But responding to the figures Ó Cuív claims that the cutting of the payment shows that people who “face serious hardship” are being targeted.

“The people in most need of assistance are seeing their benefits being chipped away or abolished altogether. The scale of these cuts is without precedent and their impact is being felt by those who need these supports the most.”

Read: Government criticised for scrapping Communion and Confirmation grants >

Read: Woman awarded €5,000 for not being allowed to do JobBridge internship >

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Rónán Duffy

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