Official admits 'welfare cheats' campaign was a mistake

Updated / Thursday, 7 Dec 2017 22:57

The campaign was launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar earlier this year

The head of the Department of Social Protection has said the wording of a high-profile campaign targeting social welfare fraud was a mistake.

John McKeon said his officials had learned lessons from the 'Welfare Cheats' campaign, but said the much-maligned campaign had resulted in savings.

The campaign was launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar earlier this year, when he was the minister for social protection, not long after he took over at the department.

It was aimed at encouraging members of the public to report suspected cases of social welfare fraud.

It soon proved controversial though, with some saying it over emphasised the actual level of fraud in the system, as well as stigmatising those entitled to welfare.

Today Mr McKeon was quizzed about it at the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee.

Responding to Sinn Féin's David Cullinane, he admitted putting the words 'wefare' and 'cheats' together was a mistake and the department would learn from it. 

He said the campaign cost €163,000 and it generated savings of around €1 million.