Written answers

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Department of Social Protection

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Independent)
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41. To ask the Minister for Social Protection the circumstances under which an involuntary deduction may be made from a social welfare payment; and the total percentage or cash deduction that may be made. [44426/14]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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People who have received an overpayment from the Department of Social Protection have a liability under law to refund the overpayment. They have received money to which they were not entitled. Effective debt recovery is seen as an important measure to safeguard public expenditure. Where someone has been overpaid social welfare, it is important that this money is recouped.

I introduced legislation in 2012 in relation to the recovery of social welfare overpayments by way of weekly deductions from a person’s ongoing social welfare entitlements. This allows for a deduction of an amount up to 15% of the weekly personal rate payable to a customer for the purposes of the recovery of an overpayment without the customer’s consent.

The deduction of 15% applies to the person’s personal rate only and does not affect payment of any adult or child dependent allowances, or any other allowances that are in payment. It allows the person to retain 85% of their personal rate of payment. In the circumstances where the person has been in receipt of money to which they were not entitled, this is considered to be reasonable.

When deductions are being implemented from ongoing social welfare entitlements, the person is provided with the opportunity to put forward any circumstances that they feel may be relevant to the rate of recovery proposed.

The introduction of this legislation means that the Department is now in a position to ensure that all debt-holders in receipt of a social welfare payment are repaying their debt.

In addition, the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 provided for the introduction of Notice of Attachment for the recovery of overpayments directly from earnings or monies held in financial institutions. This significantly enhances my Department’s ability to pursue overpayments from persons who are no longer in receipt of social welfare and who are not making reasonable efforts to repay their debt.

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