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Every three months, the government will publish the names and addresses of welfare fraudsters

The provision is included in the Social Welfare Bill 2017, which was published today.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL Protection Leo Varadkar has announced the publication of the new Social Welfare Bill, which includes provisions to deter abuse of the welfare system.

These measures include the quarterly publication of the names, addresses and penalties incurred by people convicted of welfare fraud, and the potential to reduce the amount that a person can receive in social welfare benefit if they’ve been convicted of fraud.

Varadkar said that he is keen to introduce reforms in the area of social welfare and is looking forward “to a fruitful debate in the Oireachtas as the Bill proceeds through the Houses”. Speaking to reporters today, the Minister said he hoped to have the law in place by the summer Dáil recess.

“Similar to tax defaulters”

In a statement, the department said that the measures will be “similar in approach and intent” to the list of tax defaulters already published by Revenue.

It will see the publication, every three months, of the names, addresses and penalties handed out to those convicted of welfare fraud.

While such cases of fraudulently claiming welfare are often covered in the media, “the publication of a list in this way will send a stronger message” to people prepared to risk defrauding the system, the department said.

And as for granting the power to reduce someone’s social welfare, the department said:

The second action provides that where a person has been convicted of fraudulently claiming a social welfare payment, the department will have the power to reduce, for a limited period, the rate of any weekly social welfare payment. This reinforces the message that defrauding the welfare system will not be rewarded.

Pensions

Also included in the Social Welfare Bill 2017, are provisions related to defined benefit pensions.

Varadkar said that it is “particularly important that the proposals relating to defined benefit pension schemes are brought into effect as soon as possible”.

For employers who offer defined benefit pension schemes, under this new legislation they would be required to give 12 months’ notice if they intend to cease contributions to the scheme.

When a scheme is in deficit, employers and trustees will be required to enter into discussions to agree a funding proposal before the 12 month period expires.

It also introduces a time limit of six months, for trustees of a defined benefit scheme which is in deficit to submit a funding proposal to the Pensions Authority, from the date of the actuarial funding certificate.

Thirdly, it gives powers to the Pensions Authority to determine a schedule of contributions that will restore these schemes to an adequate funding positions.

The Minister said he hopes to win cross-party support for these provisions to offer “greater safeguards” to people who are members of defined benefit pension schemes.

Other provisions

The Bill also would offer relaxed rules on recipients of disability allowance and the blind pension to take up work without losing their payment, and provisions for same-sex couples in occupational pension schemes.

The latter will see same-sex spouses and civil partners able to obtain, in certain circumstances, a spouse’s pension.

Read: Reports of suspected social welfare fraud double after launch of advertising campaign

Read: A Dublin landlord is offering a discount… but only if you pay 12 months’ rent upfront

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Sean Murray

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