Welfare cheats will be shamed on blacklist

Convicted welfare fraudsters will be named and shamed under Department of Social Protection plans that mirror Revenue’s ‘blacklist’ of tax defaulters.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar also announced plans to protect defined benefit pensions where employers fail to follow through on contributions.

The Cabinet yesterday agreed to the Social Welfare Bill 2017 which includes a number of reforms.

One of the more radical reforms will be to publish, on a quarterly basis, the names, addresses, and penalties imposed on welfare fraudsters where individuals have been convicted.

Such a move would help deter people claiming State benefits from making false claims, said Mr Varadkar.

“It will be the exact same process as the Revenue use. Tax fraud is similar to welfare fraud and often it is of a similar scale with a conviction the other day of €170,000 worth of social welfare fraud,” he said.

It is expected the lists of convicted welfare fraud will begin to be circulated next year.

Under the bill, people convicted of welfare fraud will also have their benefits reduced for nine weeks.

Mr Varadkar dismissed criticism of his campaign to expose welfare cheats and said he would report crimes himself.

The legislation will also require employers to give 12 months’ notice of their intention to stop contributions to defined benefit pensions. Solutions must be entered into before the period expires. 

The pensions authority can also set out a path to restore defined benefit schemes where funding is not agreed.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has agreed to flag “red line” issues with Independent ministers after a row over whether Ireland should reveal if it voted to elect Saudi Arabia to a UN rights body.

In a bizarre development, Independent Alliance ministers asked for the answer at Cabinet but were refused. 

Instead, it was agreed that ministers will be told of any controversial foreign affairs matters in future, but will not be informed of Ireland’s position or which way the country might vote.

The strange arrangement will see controversial UN and foreign affairs decisions flagged to Independent ministers, but they will not be told of Ireland’s stance.

A Government spokesman said there was a discussion at Cabinet on the matter, after outrage last week that Ireland would not reveal if it voted to elect Saudi Arabia to the UN commission on women’s rights.

The spokesman confirmed Taoiseach Enda Kenny was aware of the voting position.

Mr Flanagan told colleagues Ireland had for decades not revealed its votes on such matters and would continue in that fashion.

Ministers Shane Ross and Finian McGrath had said they wanted the vote revealed and would demand answers at Cabinet. Their spokeswoman confirmed future “red line” issues would be flagged with other ministers but not shared. 

“They don’t like it but they accept that it is there,” she said.

Belgium was forced to apologise last week after leaked emails revealed it had supported Riyadh’s nomination to the UN body.


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