Workers who lose their jobs will have the length of time to access welfare payments reduced under budget changes.
Jobseekers’ benefit will be reduced from 12 months to nine months for new claimants from Apr 3 of next year. The money is given to people who are out of work and who are covered by social insurance (PRSI) payments.
Under changes next year, existing claimants will also only get an extra three months of the payment if they have been getting jobseekers’ benefit for less six months.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said that the savings were needed to help finance the social insurance fund, which supports welfare payments.
Ms Burton pointed out that welfare claimants would not be left high and dry under the changes.
Jobseekers could still continue to access jobseekers’ allowance, which is a means tested scheme, she stated.
The Government says that a reduction in the duration of jobseeker’s benefit by three months will save €33m in 2013 and €82m in a full year.
The primary weekly rate of social welfare payments is not being reduced in the budget.
But Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said the Government’s claim that it was not touching the main welfare rates was a lie.
“For those out of work the prospects are very grim. You [the Government] have failed to deliver any job creation plan.
“You cynically rely on emigration — the loss of our brightest and best — to reduce the numbers on the live register.
“What the minister describes as ‘changes to the qualifying criteria for social welfare benefits’ are in fact cuts.
“The pretence by government that they have protected welfare payments is downright dishonest.”
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