Social Welfare Support and Fraud Prevention

The government’s Pathways to Work strategy which is being led by the Department of Social Protection includes a wide range of programmes and services to help jobseekers back to employment. Some of the initiatives include JobBridge, JobsPlus and Momentum introduced by this government and schemes such as Community Employment and TÚS where the number of places available has been significantly increased.

According to Fiona Breen press officer from Department of Social Protection, the government is putting particular focus on tackling youth unemployment. “A cornerstone of the government’s strategy to get young people into jobs will be the implementation of the Youth Guarantee which was agreed by the EU during the Irish presidency and which will ensure that young people are prioritised for support on the pathway back to employment.”

Breen stated: “This objective is to be achieved, over time, by fast-tracking Intreo engagement with newly unemployed young people, by allocating extra places on schemes such as TÚS, Momentum and JobBridge for young people and by reducing the qualifying time for access to JobsPlus for young people.” 

The Youth Guarantee is already being piloted in Ballymun involving a partnership of key national and local stakeholders. According to DSP the findings from this pilot, which is being mainly funded by the European Commission, will feed into the national rollout of the Guarantee.

Part-time Workers and Benefits 

In relation to part-time work, Breen says that “the primary function of the social welfare system in relation to people of working age is to support those people and their families where they have lost or are unable to attain employment.” The DSP achieves this task most notably via jobseeker’s schemes’ support to part-time work under the Family Income Supplement scheme; the system also helps people to attain and maintain a foothold in the labour market, subject to income tests and other criteria.

I asked Breen if there has been any increase in welfare fraud in recent times?

Breen’s reply was: “The Department processes in excess of 2 million applications each year and makes payments to some 1.4 million people every week. The vast majority of people who are supported by the Department are exercising their legitimate rights and receiving their appropriate entitlements,” adding, “It is vitally important to ensure that the Department’s resources are targeted at – and are available for – the people who most need them.”

According to Breen “Social welfare fraud undermines public confidence in the entire social protection system as well as being unfair to other recipients of social welfare payments and to taxpayers. Control of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is one of the three key functions of the Department.”

In this context the Department has published a new Compliance and Anti-Fraud Strategy 2014–2018 in April 2014. The new strategy builds on the approach and progress made under the Fraud Initiative (2011 – 2013). Under the new Strategy the Department has outlined a range of measures to prevent and detect fraud and to ensure effective debt recovery and deterrence measures are in place.

“In order to receive a jobseeker’s payment, a person must satisfy the conditions of the scheme i.e. that they are available for and genuinely seeking work. Claims are reviewed on a regular basis and those who fail to satisfy those conditions can have their claim disallowed.”

Concluding, Breen reiterated: “As already outlined, the Department has committed resources to supporting jobseekers on the Live Register back to work through activation measures. These measures include the requirement to attend group or individual meetings with a case officer, and/or avail of suitable education, training or development opportunities, or specified employment programmes, which are considered appropriate to a person’s circumstances. Where a person fails to engage with the services on offer, their payment can be reduced or withdrawn.”