More than 1,200 unemployed people have had their benefits cut because they failed to accept training or work offers.

The Department of Social Protection introduced a measure last April to allow jobseeker payments to be cut by up to €44 a week.

The reduction is for people who refuse to take up training offers, job interviews or employment opportunities.

Since then, 1,275 jobseeker payments have been reduced.

The department said today that while there is a right to a payment, there was also a matching responsibility on the unemployed person to engage with the system.

The Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed said that penalising those who are unemployed should be a last resort.

INOU spokesperson Bríd O'Brien said the bigger issue facing those who are unemployed is the lack of quality education places.

Ms O'Brien said that the number of people looking to take part in training courses far outweighs the number of available courses.

She said: "I think that it's very important that it's done on a case-by-case basis."

The highest rate of jobseeker benefit is €188, which can be cut by €44. Lower rates of benefit face lower, proportional cuts.

The penalty applies only to an individual's personal jobseeker payments. No penalty is applied to any additional payments relating to adult or child dependants.