Burton's dole purge falls flat
Just 55 have benefits cut for failing to accept training course
Published 19/07/2011 | 05:00
JUST 55 unemployed people have had their dole cut for refusing to take up a training offer in the space of three months, the Irish Independent has learned.
The figures undermine Social Welfare Minister Joan Burton's recent claims of a crackdown on those claiming unemployment benefits as a "lifestyle choice".
Her comments were described as "Thatcherite", and Ms Burton yesterday provided precious little detail about how her plan to prevent young school leavers from signing on the dole will work.
She said yesterday that the vast majority of people unemployed at the moment were out of work because of the economic downturn and the collapse in construction.
Ms Burton said most people were "desperately anxious" to find work and were looking very hard to find work.
However, she said people had a responsibility to make themselves available if they were "offered reasonable opportunities and options around, for instance, taking up a good-quality training course, going back into education, taking up job training or work experience".
Ms Burton added: "If they're made reasonable offers, we ask them to engage with the system."
She said those not making themselves available for work could have their dole cut by €44 under a change to the law introduced by the previous government.
"And that has begun in a small way in relation to a small number of people who have refused to engage with the system," she said.
However, only 55 people have had their welfare cut since Ms Burton's department began enforcing this rule in April -- a rate of just three per week in the whole country.
The unemployment rate stands at 14.2pc, with 457,948 people signing on for benefits last month.
Ms Burton claimed that between 1pc and 3pc of those on the dole were abusing the system. She said the Government intended to bring in a new employment service, called the national employment and entitlement service.
The system will involve combining information on social welfare entitlements with suggestions of education, training, coaching and interview advice.
But this one-stop shop for the unemployed will take some time to implement.
Ms Burton was accused of attempting to distract from forthcoming social welfare cuts.
Fianna Fail social welfare spokesman Barry Cowen said: "Tough talk won't distract from clear promises.
"The latest comments from Minister Burton are a paltry attempt to soften the blow of a government U-turn on protecting social welfare rates."
Sinn Fein's social protection spokesman Aengus O Snodaigh accused the Labour Party of abandoning its working class roots. "It was like listening to Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s," he said.
Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said the statement by "the alleged Minister for Social Protection" was an arrogant and gratuitous insult.
"The reality is that young people are desperately anxious to find employment but with 440,000 ahead of them in the queue, it is near impossible for many of them," he said.