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Over 2.2 million people benefit from social welfare payments in 2013 at a cost of more than €20.2bn - Statistical Information on Social Welfare Services 2013

Total social welfare expenditure in 2013 amounted to €20.28 billion, a decrease of 2.4% over 2012. The expenditure in 2013 represented 32.5% of all day-to-day Government expenditure and was equivalent to 12.4% of GDP.

The figures are contained in the Department of Social Protection’s Statistical Information on Social Welfare Services 2013 Report, published by the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, today (Wednesday, 9thJuly 2014). This annual report provides information on social welfare services for the period January to December 2013, as well as detailing trends over the last ten years. It also provides information on social welfare financing and rates of payment. 

Over 1.4 million people were in receipt of a weekly social welfare payment at the end of 2013. More than 2.2 million people benefitted from welfare payments when increases in respect of qualified adults and children, along with Family Income Supplement and Guardian’s payments are included.

The main areas of expenditure by programme group were Pensions (31.8% of Departmental expenditure), Working Age Income Supports (27.1%), Working Age Employment Supports (4.9%) , Illness, Disability and Caring (16.8%), Children (11.2%) and Supplementary Payments (5.2%). Administration of the social welfare system accounted for 3% of total expenditure.

Commenting on the statistics, the Tánaiste said: “I have spoken before of the importance of social transfers – such as Child Benefit, Jobseeker’s payments and other welfare payments – in safeguarding against poverty. Indeed, data published by the CSO in April this year found that social transfers have played a the key role in reducing the at-risk-of poverty rate from 50.3% (before all social transfers) to 16.5% after all social transfers. The figures set out in the Statistical Information on Social Welfare Services 2013 demonstrate how the Department of Social Protection plays a role in virtually everyone’s life at some stage of their life.”

Spending on Working Age Employment Supports increased by 4.2% to almost €994 million, as a result of higher take up of labour market programmes like JobBridge and TÚS. Over 75,300 people availed of these programmes in 2013 with the Back to Education Allowance having the highest number of participants at 24,175 at a cost of over €186.8 million. There were 23,943 participants in the Community Employment Programme and the Rural Social Scheme and Tús had 2,537 and 6,999 participants respectively. An estimated €67.68 million was spent on JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme.

The Tánaiste said: “The investment being made by the Government in services and supports for jobseekers to help them return to work is paying off; unemployment has fallen from a crisis peak of 15.1% to 11.6% now. But that is still far too high, and the Government will continue its unrelenting focus on getting people back to work through the Pathways to Work strategy.”

Pensions accounted for the greatest amount spent on social welfare payments in 2013 at almost €6.45 billion. The overall number of payments in respect of pensions rose by 15,817 during the year, an increase of 2.9% on 2012.

The Tánaiste said: “It’s often missed that the greatest proportion of our spending is on pensions and related supports for older people. We have protected the State pension and schemes like the Free Travel Pass because of their critical importance for older people, and will continue to do so.”

Social Welfare expenditure in 2013 was financed by the Exchequer (57.5%) and the Social Insurance Fund (42.5%). The Social Insurance Fund was financed by Pay-Related Social Insurance contributions from employers (72.9%), employees (21.6%), the self-employed (5.4%).

Other key statistics: 

Expenditure on Carer’s Allowance increased by over €45 million in 2013, to €554.8 million. There are now 57,136 recipients, including 24,940 carers in receipt of a half-rate Carer’s Allowance. There were 1,598 carers in receipt of Carer’s Benefit in 2013.

Child Benefit accounted for €1.89 billion in 2013. 611,366 families received a monthly Child Benefit payment, which was paid in respect of 1,168,582 children;

Family Income Supplement was paid to 44,159 families in 2013, an increase of 36.7% over 2012 and benefitted 98,350 children. Expenditure on Family Income Supplement increased by 17.1% to almost €262 million.

Expenditure on the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, which is intended to contribute towards the cost of children returning to school, was €47.9 million in 2013 and the Department also provided €36.7 million for School Meals Programmes during the year.

Expenditure on Household Benefits amounted to over €290.4 million in 2013. Over 782,500 people were in receipt of Free Travel which cost €75 million in 2013. Fuel Allowance expenditure in 2013 was €226.7 million, €15.3 million more than in 2012.

The expenditure on Illness Benefit was €648.9 million – a drop of 16.2% on the previous year. Invalidity Pensions cost €707.7 million while Disability Allowance amounted to €1.14 billion in 2013 with 106,279 in receipt of the payment at the end of December.

The Department cleared 2,062,177 claims during 2013, of which 1,744,076, or 85%, were awarded. The remainder (318,101) were either disallowed or withdrawn by the client.

The number of pending claims (i.e., backlogs) declined by 34.8% in 2013, with particularly strong reductions in the Carer’s Allowance and Family Income Supplement processing areas (-68.2% and -76.2% respectively).

The Department of Social Protection’s Statistical Information on Social Welfare Services 2013 is available at