Social Protection Minister Joan Burton defended cuts to emergency needs payments, revealing that €22m was paid for clothing, religious ceremonies, buggies, and prams in the last two years.
The deputy Labour leader said her department was restricting emergency payments for welfare claimants to €100 for adult clothing and €50 in respect of child clothing.
Ms Burton’s department has announced a restriction of emergency needs payments, which are given to the less well-off for once-off and unforeseen spending needs. This includes a cut for payments for communions and confirmations.
Ms Burton told the Dáil yesterday she was surprised to learn last year of payments of €300 for Holy Communion clothing in areas in Dublin, whereas such payments were not made in other parts of the country.
Ms Burton said there had been a significant reduction in recent years in the cost of clothing in shops throughout the country.
Figures released by her department reveal that over €22m has been paid out in emergency payments for a range of clothing and religious and baby-related items in the last two years.
Emergency needs payments were made for adult and child clothing (€14.1m), religious ceremonies (€4.9m), and prams, buggies, and cots (€3.7m).
Ms Burton said €47m was still being made available for emergency payments this year, which includes the fitting out of households as well as funeral costs.
“In 2011 approximately 49,000 people got assistance with clothing. In 2012 a total of 51,914 people got such assistance,” she said.
Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh criticised moves to reduce emergency payments for welfare claimants and the less well-off, particularly at this time of year, with preparations under way for communions and confirmations.
The party’s social protection spokesman questioned whether a universal restriction in emergency payments would affect the most vulnerable.
“Would such a blanket ban not exclude some people from day-to-day life, given that this is a social inclusion payment and is meant to ensure that people can at least dress comfortably, or hopefully not in a fashion that could be considered rag and bone?” Mr Ó Snodaigh asked.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved