€44 weekly cut to force young off dole queues
Swingeing cutbacks 'disappointing as youth are soft targets'
YOUNG people will receive reduced unemployment payments in a bid to get them off the dole and into training.
Around 13,750 people aged 25 or under will be affected by cuts of €44 a week in the maximum jobseeker's allowance payment rates, as of next year.
People aged from 22 to 24 will see their payments cut from €144 a week to €100 next year, while those who reach 25 will only get €144 instead of the current maximum payment of €188.
The lower basic unemployment rates will only affect new claimants – people who are already on higher payments will continue to receive them, while claimants with children will also get the higher rates.
However, those who take part in a Back to Education course will get €160 a week, while those on JobBridge internships will continue to get an extra €50 a week.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton defended the changes, saying she wanted to make the social welfare safety net "like a trampoline that's there to lift you up and not just to support you".
"I want to ensure that, in addition to the enhanced career and job prospects from improving skills and education levels, young people are better off in education, employment or training than claiming," she said.
Spending on schemes such as Community Employment, Tus and JobBridge would increase by €85m to €1.08bn next year, while the new Youth Guarantee scheme providing employment and training opportunities to the under-25s would get €14m.
The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed said the cuts in payment rates were a retrograde step that sent out a very negative message to young people.
"Many of those who will get lower rates will be graduates aged 23 or 24 who are already highly skilled and this will be very discouraging for them. It's not about training them, it's purely about saving money," said spokesperson Brid O'Brien.
With the air travel tax being abolished, it was as if the Government wanted to make emigration even more attractive, she added.
The National Youth Council of Ireland said it was very disappointed at the swingeing cuts to jobseeker payments as young people were being seen as a soft target.
It agreed they should be in education but there were not sufficient education and training places to meet their needs.
"Young people can't take up training and education opportunities if they don't exist," the NYCI said.
Ms Burton said her department had been asked to make €226m in spending cuts – much less than the €440m originally requested. She said this was mainly down to people being helped get off benefits.