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Welfare fraud often misrepresented by media and politicians – Ó Snodaigh

5 October, 2011 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the issue of social welfare fraud is often misrepresented in the media and by politicians who are preparing the ground for cuts to social welfare payments.

Speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Welfare fraud is an emotive topic. Many pages of newspapers and hours of broadcasting are devoted to it. It is an issue that is often misrepresented. For example figures on fraud and error, including departmental error, are routinely presented together as fraud. This is despite the fact that overpayments are three times more likely to result from error than fraud. Likewise extreme cases are often highlighted as if they were the norm.

“The Sunday Independent newspaper from the weekend before last is a perfect example of the inflammatory approach taken by some of the media to the issue of welfare fraud. And is it any wonder when it is fed by the Minister’s own approach. The Minister has made a conscious decision to push an image of welfare recipients as people who have made a ‘lifestyle choice’ and are fraudsters.

“That paper carried a front page headline ‘1-in-4 lone parent claims are bogus’. If you were to take the time to read the report on which this headline is based you would discover that a review of 270 cases in which fraud was already suspected was undertaken resulting in the termination of 82 cases. Clearly only a person who is statistically illiterate would infer from this that 1-in-4 lone parent claims are bogus unless they were on a mission to make lone parents a soft target for cuts.

“The same front page article insinuates that a number of non-residents are defrauding the state this year of €105,000 per case. But when I did the calculation myself it was €10,500. The Sunday Independent inflated the figure by 1000%.

“The issue of fraud is increasingly abused by those with an agenda of cutting social welfare. And I am calling on the media, on Members and on the Minister herself to start speaking honestly and in a measured way about fraud.” ENDS

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