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Gardaí to work as social welfare inspectors

Twenty gardaí are to be sent around the country as part of a new pilot scheme to crack down on social welfare fraud.

TWENTY GARDAÍ ARE to work as social welfare inspectors in some of the biggest towns and cities around the country in a bid to cut down even further on welfare fraud.

A new pilot scheme has been approved which will see the officers sent to work in the Special Investigation Unit within the Department of Social Protection from this summer.

The officers, who will still have all their powers as gardaí for the duration of their secondment, will investigate allegations and initiate investigations into social welfare fraud, the Department said this evening.

The officers will be moved to Dublin, Dundalk, Letterkenny, Monaghan, Longford, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Navan and Sligo. The gardaí will still be subject to all the provisions of the Garda Code and Discipline Regulations while at their new roles.

“Officers will be required to collate and assemble suitable evidence to enable a deciding officer to review an entitlement to social welfare payment and to use, in certain circumstances, in legal proceedings,” the Department said in a statement.

“They will work closely and collaboratively with other compliance and fraud investigation agencies to ensure that social welfare abuse is comprehensively deterred and detected”.

Gardaí were able to apply for the jobs since February and candidates are currently being called to interviews.

The Department said the successful applicants will generally work office hours from Monday to Friday, but may have to adjust their working day occasionally to “facilitate operations outside these hours”.

The new powers are being granted under the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, which went before Cabinet today and which will be discussed by the Oireachtas in the coming weeks.

Although the actual level of welfare fraud is believed to be tiny, the Department carried out more than one million reviews of receipients last year in a bid to find any people abusing the system. The vast majority of recipients were found to be claiming the correct amount.

Read: Department carried out one million reviews of social welfare recipients last year > 

Read: Most of 500,000 identity cards in Ireland issued to social welfare claimants > 

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