Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
299. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to any cross-checking between the Health Service Executive and her Department regarding information contained about social welfare claimants on the integrated short term schemes database; if such cross-checking is utilised to verify claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36177/11]
Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): My Department exchanges information with other Government Departments and agencies for the purpose of the control of schemes. This is provided for under both the Social Welfare Acts and the Data Protection Act. For this purpose, and under agreed protocols, specified staff in the HSE carry out cross-checks with my Department’s systems in order to verify specific claims.
Cross-checking and controls have always been exercised in my Department, both at initial claim stage and at subsequent stages during the claim life cycle. Claims are reviewed on a regular and targeted basis. Means tested payments are reviewed at certain intervals or when there are indications that changes in circumstances have not been reported to the Department.
Those in receipt of illness payments are called for a medical examination by the Department’s medical assessors. Customers in receipt of unemployment payments are checked on an on- going basis to verify continued compliance with such requirements as being available for and genuinely seeking employment.
Following the re-organisation of Departmental responsibilities, my Department now has a much wider role in relation to the provision of activation, employment, community services and income support. The addition of almost 2,000 Community Welfare Service (CWS) and FÁS employment services staff, together with responsibility for a wide range of activation programmes at local level, will enhance our ability to interact directly with all our customers of working age in more effective ways. The transfer of functions will bring together employment supports and associated income support services in one service — the National Employment and Entitlements Service. Arising from this, a more integrated approach to fraud control will be realised and will result in the creation of a single customer view for control purposes.
Recently, my Department received specific data from the HSE in relation to participants of the Fair Deal Scheme. This data was requested for the prevention and detection of fraud as provided for under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 and the Data Protection Act, 1988. Participants of the Scheme were matched against the Department’s payment systems and mutual customers who were also in receipt of Living Alone Allowance were identified. Reviews have been initiated into these cases.
Social welfare fraud undermines public confidence in the entire system as well as being unfair to other recipients of social welfare payments and taxpayers. As Minister, I am very conscious of the need to protect public money and I am determined to ensure that abuse of the system is prevented and is dealt with effectively when detected.
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