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Burton asks for extra €685 million in social protection funding... for 2012

On the day of Budget 2013, Joan Burton asks an Oireachtas committee to approve a 5.1 per cent increase for 2012.

Social Protection minister Joan Burton said the request for €685 million in extra funding for 2012 could not be made any earlier.
Social Protection minister Joan Burton said the request for €685 million in extra funding for 2012 could not be made any earlier.

SOCIAL PROTECTION MINISTER Joan Burton has formally requested than the Oireachtas approve €685 million in extra funding for her Department – for the 2012 calendar year.

Details of the request were supplied to the Joint Oireachtas sub-committee on Social Protection this morning – only hours before the Department’s spending requirements for next year will be confirmed as part of Budget 2013.

Funding for the Department of Social Protection under Budget 2012 currently stands at just under €13.4 billion – but proposals being put to the committee for approval this morning would see that total grow to just under €14.1 billion, an increase of 5.1 per cent.

Most of the extra funding falls under two categories – payments for Jobseeker’s Allowance, which is now set to cost the government €3.07 billion this year – €271.4 million more than originally expected.

The Department is also contributing €417.9 million more to the Social Insurance Fund, the fund from which payments such as Jobseeker’s Benefit are made. This fund, which is funded by employee PRSI payments, is in deficit.

Reports suggest that Budget 2013, being announced this afternoon, will remove a system where a certain amount of an employees’ earnings are exempt from PRSI.

This is seen as an attempt to help address the deficit in the fund – but will mean that all employees in the state will be hit to the tune of €260 per year.

Fianna Fáil’s social protection spokesman, Willie O’Dea, noted that spending in some areas – such as fuel allowance, farm assistance, rent supplement and JobBridge – had actually been less than budgeted for in Budget 2012.

His Sinn Féin counterpart, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, said nobody would oppose the approval of extra funding going towards the country’s most vulnerable people – but was disappointed that details of the funding shortfall only came on the day that Budget 2013 was being announced.

Burton explained the delay by saying her Department could not predict how much money it would need for 2012 until the November Exchequer returns were published. Those returns were released only yesterday afternoon.

She said that without the approval of extra funding, the Department would not be in a position to continue its full range of welfare payments for the rest of the year.

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Gavan Reilly

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