Call for return to ‘signing on’ at post offices as State has made €16m in fraudulent welfare payments so far this year
10th December 2021
There have been calls for a return to ‘signing on’ at post offices after it emerged the Department of Social Protection has paid out €16m in fraudulent welfare payments so far this year.
There has also been €102m in “overpayments” to social welfare recipients so far in 2021, which is higher than last year’s figure of €99m.
So far, there has been €25m of the PUP “overpaid”, of which about €10m to €11m has been recovered by the Department.
Secretary General at the Department of Social Protection John McKeon told PAC that most cases of people receiving PUP while abroad relate to people who have left the State.
“Most of those cases would be people who are leaving the State, they weren’t holiday cases,” he told Fianna Fáil TD James O’Connor.
“In a lot of cases, people would have worked in the State and decided that they were going to go back to their home country for the period of the pandemic, for example,” said Mr McKeon.
He said that these people “sought” to be in full receipt of the PUP but that they were “detected” by the Department.
“We would have caught them fairly quickly,” he said.
However, he said that the Department is yet to put in place measures which would review all PUP claims to see which recipients got payments while they were working.
He told the committee that he wouldn’t be overly worried about the State making fraudulent payments.
“I wouldn’t want to overstate the level of fraud,” he said.
Mayo Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon also called for PUP recipients to have to ‘sign on’ at their local post office to receive the payment, which has not been the case since the beginning of the pandemic due to worry over failure to social distance in queues.
Deputy Dillon said that this would work as a measure to reduce fraud.
According to Mr McKeon, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys is actively looking at bringing it back.
As the top official in charge of the €300m JobPath service which has been recently branded by PAC as not good value for taxpayer money, the secretary general described it as a “reasonably good service”.
The PAC recently published a report on the service, which aims to find work for people who have been unemployed for long periods of time, stating that it “has not delivered value for money for the taxpayer”.
Between 2015 and 2020, over 280,000 people took part in the service at a cost of over €247m, at a cost of around €873 per participant.
Out of the 283,826 people who made use of the service, 64,000 people started work and 22,000 people stayed in work for over a year.
“Our customer research, which is independent, gives very results for JobPath,” he said.
“I think it’s been a reasonably good service.”