PENSIONERS, the unemployed, widows and people with disabilities face an anxious wait to see if they will get their traditional Christmas social welfare bonus this year because of government cutbacks.
The Department of Social and Family Affairs has not yet made a decision on whether its Christmas bonus payments will be made this year because of a deficit in State funds.
The payment has been made for the past eight years and was originally introduced in 1980. Last year, 1.3 million people received the bonus which amounted to a doubling of social welfare payments in the first week of December.
Twelve welfare supports are included in the bonus scheme, such as the dole, the state pension, disability allowance, carers allowance and the one-parent family payment.
The Labour Party yesterday called on Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, to clarify whether these payments would be made.
A spokesperson for the Department said: “A decision on this will be made at the start of next week” but could not give any more details on what is being considered.
Labour’s spokesperson on social and family affairs, Roisín Shortall, said welfare recipients are extremely worried: “On two days in succession Labour asked the Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, in the Dáil, whether Christmas welfare payments were to be paid as normal, or whether they were to subject to a cutback. Ominously, on both occasions the Tánaiste failed to avail of the opportunity to clarify this matter,” she said.
Bríd O’Brien of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed said it would be “dreadful” if the payment was withheld.
“We will be calling on the Government to provide the payment as it would be unfair on a very vulnerable group not to do so.”
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