The Cabinet on Thursday approved drastic cuts in allowances for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection.
Government spokesman Christo Stylianides said the revised benefits reflected a ‘major shift in philosophy’ on the matter.
From now on, he said, state assistance given to these groups would be based on the beneficiaries’ accommodation and family size.
Part of the benefits will be given in the form of coupons for food and clothing, and the rest in cash.
The coupons will be redeemable from businesses that conclude agreements with the welfare services, such as restaurants, food stores and clothing and footwear stores.
Only small-to-medium sized businesses are eligible to participate in the programme. These are defined as businesses with a maximum of five staff.
Calls inviting interest in the programme will be published at regular intervals in the media.
Previously, the monthly benefit amounted to €678 per person a month. It has now been reduced to €320, of which €150 in coupons, a €100 allowance for paying rent, and €70 for miscellaneous expenses (utility bills and daily expenses).
A two-member household will receive a total of €420: €225 in coupons, €100 for rent and €95 for miscellaneous expenses. Previously, they were entitled to €1017.
Three-person families are entitled to €580 (down from 1356), and four-person households will get €735 (down from €1695).
All the above concern persons aged 14 and over.
The reductions are part of the cash-strapped government’s efforts to rein in spending, but also come after reports that the benefits system was rife with loopholes and was being abused, with some beneficiaries getting cheques of €3000 and even €5000.