Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has given a commitment to maintaining "core" social welfare rates in the Budget.

Ms Burton said this was in line with what the Government had promised last year.

However, she did not clarify what she considered to be core social welfare rates.

Earlier Ms Burton was in Dublin to listen to 31 voluntary and community organisations who were outlining their concerns ahead of the Budget.

She said no decision had been made on how child benefit payments would be treated in December's Budget.

The minister said an advisory group had carried out a review of child benefit, but that no report had yet been brought to the Government.

She said her personal preference was for a tax-based system rather than any kind of means testing.

The Department of Social Protection has a budget of €20.5bn, which accounts for almost 40% of all Government spending.

Police Officer with St Vincent De Paul Caroline Fahey said the charity is not reassured by Ms Burton's commitment to maintaining "core" welfare rates.

Speaking on RTE's Six One News, Ms Fahey said the the Department has said it has to reduce expenditure by €500m, and past experience has shown those on the lowest incomes will be effected.

She said that she understood from what the minister had said that core rates referred to the basic rates of Job Seekers' Allowance and the One Parent Family payment.

However, Ms Fahey said that those rates were also protected in last year's budget, but that people on social welfare still saw a reduction in their incomes as a result of cuts to rent supplement, the Community Employment Scheme, changes to the One Parent Family payment and cuts to child benefit.

Ms Fahey said that in talks with Minister Burton today, St Vincent de Paul's message was that successive budgets have hit low income families, and that her Department's supports and services are the lifeline for the less well off, and cannot be cut any further.