PHOTOGRAPHIC identification will be required of the growing number of people collecting the dole and other social welfare payments after it emerged the state is losing millions through fraudulent claims.
A recent spot check found up to 10% of dole claims were fraudulent — mostly made by, or in the name of, people living outside of Ireland.
With up to €4 billion to be paid out in the jobseekers’ allowance this year, the figure could mean €400m falling into the wrong hands.
Fraud investigations in eight areas of the state that began in March saw more than 2,200 claimants examined: Of those, 275 have had their claims suspended and are no longer entitled to claim a benefit, or are under continuing investigation.
Minster for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin said: “These were people who either weren’t living in the country, or they were claiming for someone else.”
Notices were put up in post offices yesterday advising those seeking the job seekers’ benefit and allowance, back-to-work allowance, child benefit and one-parent family benefit that they will need to have photo ID. Pensioners will be exempt from the new rules, which will not be overly strict in the cases of people who know their local post office staff.
“This is not about undue pressure on people, or making them feel uncomfortable. I know it’s difficult for them to have to go to collect social welfare money in the first place. It’s more the case where staff don’t know people,” said Ms Hanafin.
But the Combat Poverty Agency has criticised the move, saying it targets many people who do not own passports, which cost €80. Spokesman Jim Walsh said: “It is unfair to penalise people on social welfare because they don’t have the form of identification that the general population have.”
Ms Hanafin said: “Our target approach is mostly on non-nationals. That’s not to say it is only people from other countries who are fraudulently claiming social welfare. It has happened with Irish people all over the years. But obviously eastern Europeans and other non-nationals wouldn’t be known to the staff. Because our targeted approach showed up these are the categories at most high risk, these are the ones who will be included in this,” she told RTÉ radio.
A total of 230,000 weekly payments are made through the post office and 98,000 through banks. On monthly payments it makes 250,000 through the post office and 350,000 through banks. Government measures aimed at saving money on welfare fraud last year showed that expected savings of about €536m for 2008 slipped to 476m.
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