SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton has refused to rule out a cut in unemployment benefit in the upcoming budget, warning those who refuse to work may face reduced "income support."
Last month she insisted weekly social welfare rates will not be changed in October's budget, saying “protecting core weekly rates makes absolute sense both for the individual families who receive welfare payments and for the economy generally.”
However, speaking today at the FAI's headquarters in Abbotstown, she insisted that she "can't say" if a cut to the standard unemployment benefit payment is on the cards.
"I've said this so often before, but I can't say what the individual measures might or might not be in the budget - the detailed discussions in Government have not yet begun," she told the Irish Independent.
"There's a strong business case for maintaining the core weekly rates at a time when we're inviting people to get back to work.
"But for those people who do not engage I'm also saying hold on, this is a social contract.
"We're helping you and supporting you while you're unemployed so therefore you have to co-operate with us in terms of getting back to work, and if you don't, we will look at reducing the income support that you receive."
She also announced that the number of internships taken up under the Government's controversial JobBridge scheme has now exceeded 20,000.
She said the maximum number of internships that an intern can avail of will be increased from two to three, and the maximum duration of internships from nine months to 18 months.
There are over 5,300 participants currently on an internship and over 2,000 internship posts are currently advertised on the JobBridge website.
Minister Bruton also paid tribute to the FAI for being an excellent example of the scheme's benefits to both interns and employers.
Five former participants on the scheme who completed internships at the FAI now work in a full-time capacity with the Association, while eight are surrently on JobBridge placements there.
"JobBridge is just one of a number of ways in which the Government is tackling unemployment. The latest CSO figures show we are moving in the right direction, with an increase of 33,800 in the numbers at work over the last year.”