Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív has admitted that his Department overpaid customers by at least €65m last year alone.

The minister said €20m of that was classified as fraud where customers had received money as a result of false declarations.

Nearly €31m was due to customer or 'third party' error while nearly €4m was due to errors within the Department itself.

Just over €10.5m of incorrect spending came to light after claimants - usually pensioners - had undisclosed money but this only came to light after they had died.

The minister released the information in reply to a Dáil question by Fine Gael’s John Perry.

Earlier today, Mr Ó Cuív warned that unemployed people who fail to participate in welfare-to-work programmes will lose their dole payments.

A spokesperson for the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed said the remarks amounted to scare tactics and that the unemployed needed to be offered meaningful opportunities to improve their long-term prospects.

Minister Ó Cuív made his remarks at a briefing on his Government's plan to cut welfare spending by one-seventh over four years.

He said next month's Budget would include labour activation measures designed to save €100m.

Recent legislation gave the minister powers to dock dole payments if recipients unreasonably refuse to go on a training course arranged by his Department or by FÁS as part of the plan.

The measure is designed to ensure that long-term systemic unemployment and welfare dependency do not take hold.

A spokesperson for the INOU said that the minister was trying to scare people and that the programmes concerned could accommodate only a quarter those on the Live Register.