Dole scammers will be named and shamed under new law

Dole scammers will be named and shamed under new law

WELFARE fraudsters will be named and shamed under a new law proposed by Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, who also plans tougher penalties upon conviction.

Mr Varadkar announced the measures as part of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, which he hopes to have enacted by the summer.

He said at present, the only penalty that many convicted of welfare fraud face is repaying the money they took.

“I don’t think that’s an adequate penalty,” Mr Varadkar added, saying that in such cases fines may or may not be imposed.

The proposed bill would see convicted benefits fraudsters suffer cuts to their payments for nine weeks.

The names and addresses of convicted individuals – including the penalties imposed on them – would also be published by the department on a quarterly basis.

His department recently kicked off an advertising campaign encouraging members of the public to report people they suspect of welfare fraud.

Mr Varadkar responded to criticism of the campaign saying that while such fraud may be “relatively uncommon”, if even 0.5pc of claims are bogus, it amounts to €100m.

“That’s a lot of money,” he said, adding even a tiny saving from a campaign like this can be recycled, used, and given to those who are honest and who are entitled to these payments.

Mr Varadkar said he does not accept arguments against the campaign based on “whataboutery”, essentially that a crime should not be investigated until worse ones are pursued.

 “If that was applied to justice and garda matters, you would be telling people not to bother reporting burglaries until you have dealt with all the murders.

That is rubbish,” he said.

Other measures in the new bill include providing greater protection for members of defined benefit pension schemes.

An employer that wants to stop making contributions to such a scheme will be required to give trustees 12 months’ notice of their intention to do so.

The law will also require that they engage in discussions with trustees on how they can deal with any deficit in the scheme during that period.