Sunday workers could lose dole

Partly unemployed people who work on Sundays could lose dole payments under a measure to be inserted into budget legislation.

Joan Burton, the social protection minister, told the Dáil last night she planned to make an amendment to the Social Welfare Bill, which is to be voted into law tomorrow.

The bill gives effect to measures announced in the budget, including a €10 cut to child benefit, changes to PRSI and a 20% cut to the respite care grant.

Last night, the bill survived its first vote, on a procedural issue, without dissent from Labour backbenchers, who will discuss the cuts at their parliamentary party meeting today.

Under an amendment to be introduced by Ms Burton, Sundays will be considered a working day in determining who qualifies for the jobseekers’ benefit and jobseekers’ allowance.

Currently, a person can qualify for the benefits if they are out of work for three consecutive days out of a six-day week, but Sundays are not counted.

Ms Burton said the changes would bring the welfare payments “into greater alignment with the current operations of the labour market” and would only effect those who claimed jobseekers’ benefit and allowances and who also worked on Sundays.

Ms Burton also committed to preserving the universality of child benefit payments when the system is reformed in the future.

A report on options for taxing or means-testing the payment will be published in the new year following a €10 across-the-board cut in Budget 2013.

Ms Burton told the Dáil the payment was made to mothers and “I know that most women favour the retention of a strong universal payment”.

Saying middle-income families are set to lose the payment in Britain next year, she said: “I am determined that, in future, reform of child benefit will preserve that principle of universality.

“I fully realise that nobody in this House would want to cut social welfare and I certainly do not wish to cut child benefit, respite care grant, or the duration of the jobseekers’ benefit.”

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on social protection, Willie O’Dea, said the Government’s budgets had been regressive and unfair.

Sinn Féin’s spokesman on social protection, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, criticised what he described as “Labour hypocrisy in trying to suggest that it had nothing to do with his budget”.

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