Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has accused Minister Leo Varadkar of using a pointless self-serving campaign as part of his leadership bid.
This week, the Department of Social Protection provided a figure to Deputy Brady for the total cost of the newly launched advertising campaign to tackle social welfare fraud of over €200,000.
Speaking this morning, Teachta Brady said:
“Last week, Minister Varadkar launched a ‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ advertising and online campaign set to cost the taxpayer €204,000. Initially, the Department were unable to provide the total cost of this campaign but they have since advised me of this figure.
“The Department of Social Protection have claimed that they achieved overall savings of €506 million in 2016 as a result of ‘control and anti-fraud measures’. However, the actual calculation of this figure leaves more questions than answers. In fact, in the Department’s own words, it is based on nothing more than an assumption. The real figure from Department officials, received by the media today, stands at €41 million.
“The Department developed a bizarre method of calculation using multipliers where they assume that an excess payment would have continued to be paid for a set future period and therefore, they multiply the payment by an assumed length of time. In the case of Carer’s Allowance and Disability Allowance, the payment is multiplied by 136.
“When we look at the figures from past reviews undertaken by the Department, it clearly shows that the real issue to be tackled is the prevalence of over-payments rather than fraud. This is reflected in a number of previous Controller and Auditor General Reports which showed that between 2007 and 2011 50% of all overpayments were due to error while 38% of overpayments were due to fraud.
“Minister Varadkar’s stance on social welfare recipients is peculiar but perfectly, staunch right wing. He has a particular dislike for young Jobseekers – as if those aged less than 24 years of age are living the high life on €100 a week.
“Minister Varadkar’s eyes are firmly on becoming Fine Gael’s next leader; in essence, a campaign to save the taxpayers money from welfare ‘cheats’ is but a PR strategy.
“As the Departments website states, this is a publicity campaign. In reality, this is a ‘Leo for leader’ campaign rather than a social welfare campaign.”