Almost 3,000 public sector workers rely on benefit pay

ALMOST 3,000 public sector workers are so poorly paid they have to rely on Family Income Supplement (FIS).

The news contrasts sharply with a recent study by the National Competitiveness Council which revealed how some state workers are among the highest paid in the world, with hospital consultants earning twice the salary of German counterparts.

According to the Department of Social Protection’s own figures, however, there are 2,855 public servants availing of the FIS scheme, representing 11% of 27,000 overall beneficiaries. Public servants in receipt of the income supplement include road workers, fire fighters and those employed by the Health Service Executive.

Thousands of workers, in the public and private sectors, who are eligible for the payment have not claimed it. It is estimated up to €100 million in supplementary benefit lies unclaimed.

A total of 25,963 people received the top-up payment last year at a cost of €167m. The gap between those public sector employees earning in excess of €500,000 a year and those forced to survive partly on state handouts was branded a disgrace last night by the Labour Party.

Kathleen Lynch, TD for Cork North Central, described the income gap as ‘enormous’ and reflected a lack of real Government concern for people's plight. She said: “Some public sector employees are handsomely paid, earning half a million plus, along with secondary benefits like cars and the use of credit cards. This contrasts sharply with the people who do the dirty work for us, like sweeping the streets, or those we meet in times of crisis, like ambulance drivers and fire fighters.” Ms Lynch said the Government was also at fault in not properly informing potential beneficiaries.

“The criteria for the scheme is simple: you either qualify or you don’t. The Government knows exactly how much these employees are earning, yet never so much as suggest to them that they might be eligible. The attitude seems to be that if you know about the scheme and apply for it, you may get it but if you don’t, tough luck.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Protection said that, while the state clearly knows how much is earned by its own employees, the scheme is based on family income and the state may not be privy to the income of a partner.

Estimates show there is in the region €100m in unclaimed FIS benefits but, according to the minister it is not possible to estimate the number of families who would be eligible but do not apply for FIS entitlements.


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