Names and addresses of welfare fraudsters to be published

A new bill is also looking to give same-sex couples access to occupational pension schemes

Names and addresses of welfare fraudsters to be published

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar at the launch of a new campaign entitled Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The Government has announced plans to name and shame people convicted of welfare fraud.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has published the Social Welfare Bill 2017, which includes two proposals to deter abuse of the system.

One way is that the Department of Social Protection will publish a list of the names, addresses and penalties incurred by people who have been convicted of welfare fraud on a quarterly basis.

The second action will mean that the department will have the power to reduce the rate of any weekly social welfare payment to a person convicted of fraudulently claiming payment.

It comes less than a month after a new campaign encouraging people to report suspected social welfare cheats was launched.

The bill also introduces measures to tackle difficulties in Defined Benefit (DB) Occupational Pension schemes.

It requires employers who sponsor DB schemes - whether or not those schemes are in deficit - to give 12 months' notice of plans to stop contributions.

If a scheme is in deficit, employers and trustees will need to enter into discussions to agree a proposal before the 12 month period expires.

It also introduces a time limit of six months for trustees of a DB scheme in deficit to submit funding proposals to the Pensions Authority.

Disability Allowance and Blind Pension

The bill will also removes a barrier to employment for people on Disability Allowance and the Blind Pension.

It will allow them to keep some, or all, of their weekly welfare payment if they take up work - which will no longer have to be of a strictly rehabilitative nature.

And changes in the bill means people can include their date of birth on their Public Services Card if they wish.

The department says this will be of particular benefit to those who may have not a driving licence or passport.

Finally the bill would allow same-sex spouses and civil partners of those in occupational pension schemes to receive a spouse's pension in certain circumstances.

"This significant equal treatment proposal aims to provide that same-sex couples enjoy the same rights and entitlements in this area as any other married couples do," the department adds.

The bill will now be submitted for pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection.

Minister Varadkar says: "The bill contains key measures to increase protections for members of Defined Benefit Occupational Pension schemes, and to make it easier for people with disabilities to take up work.

"There are also reforms to tackle welfare fraud. I am keen to introduce reforms in these policy areas and I look forward to a fruitful debate in the Oireachtas as the bill proceeds through the Houses".