Govt use home visits to crack down on welfare fraud
It seems home visits are the latest part of the Government plan to cut down on welfare fraud.
It is reported inspectors have been calling to people's homes, asking to see passports or birth certificates as part of the crackdown.
The Department of Social Protection insists the checks are completely random.
________________________________Committee to question HSE officials over reforms
Officials from the Department of Health and the HSE will face questions from the Public Accounts Committee today.
The group will quiz Dr Ambrose McLoughlin and Tony O'Brien on a number of key issues.
These include agency staff, the cost of overtime, the impact of absenteeism, and whether new contracts for consultants will deliver savings.
PAC chairman John McGuinness has said the overall rate of absenteeism in the health service stands at 4.9% so far this year, but the target was put at just 3.5%.
__________________________________Govt agrees double points for drivers using mobiles
It is reported that proposals to double the penalty points for drivers using mobile phones while driving have got the green light.
The Irish Independent has said the Government has accepted the recommendations from an all-party transport committee.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the culture needs to be changed so that talking on a handheld mobile while driving becomes socially unacceptable.
____________________________Noonan to push for progress on Irish bank debt
EU finance ministers meet in Luxembourg today, where it is expected that Michael Noonan will make a further push for progress on Ireland's bank debt.
The issue of plans for a European Financial Transactions tax is also expected to be on the agenda, something Minister Noonan is likely to oppose, despite pressure from other EU states and representations were made by the large banks at the IFSC in Dublin.
They claim that Ireland would be at a competitive disadvantage by agreeing to a financial transactions tax, because of the fact that banks in neighbouring Britain would not be subject to the same rules.
Germany and France want the tax and ministers will today discuss its feasibility.
________________________________Varadkar defends fee-paying schools
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has said not every parent who sends their child to a fee-paying school is “super-rich” and many make sacrifices to do it.
He was responding to the suggestion by the Labour Minister of State Alan Kelly that the €96 million the State gives to fee-paying schools to pay teachers could be scaled back or abolished.
The Department of Education is looking at €77 million worth of cuts in the forthcoming budget.
“The day of being able to give €96 million to €100 million for private schools is something that is going to come to an end,” Mr Kelly maintained on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics on Sunday night.
Mr Varadkar said closing down fee-paying schools would cost the State money because they received no capitation grant and “virtually no” capital funding.
He suggested that a series of “kite-flying” exercises in relation to what might be in the budget, especially in relation to child benefit, had contributed to a dramatic drop in consumer confidence, which had previously reached a five-year high.
Advisers tell Burton to axe disability allowance for under-18s
Disability allowance payments to under-18s will be ended in the budget if the Government adopts a proposal from the expert group that recommended reducing the rate of child benefit.
The Coalition was forced into a U-turn after last December’s budget when its plan to stop the practice of paying disability allowance directly to 16- and 17-year-olds met strong opposition from the parents of severely disabled children and Opposition parties.
The contentious proposal to increase the minimum qualifying age for the allowance from 16 to 18, while providing a compensatory payment for the teenager’s parent or guardian, is back on the agenda as Budget 2013 approaches.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said the EU-European Central Bank-International Monetary Fund troika has raised concerns about social welfare payments going straight to under-18s and said she was worried about young people losing the incentive to stay in education.