The appropriate level of overall expenditure by my Department in 2012 was considered in the context of Budget 2012 and having regard to the various expenditure reductions introduced by the previous Government since 2009. In the last Budget, I prioritised the maintenance of primary weekly rates of social welfare in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. As a result, these rates are unchanged in the Budget despite the requirement to make savings in my Department's overall expenditure.
In relation to funding to target particularly sensitive areas of social or economic deprivation, I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to the exceptional and urgent needs payments made by my Department under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme and in respect of which €51.6 million has been made available this year.
This Government is committed to tackling Ireland's economic crisis in a way that is fair, balanced, and which recognises the need for social solidarity. This approach will continue to inform decisions on funding for social protection.