Friday 28 July 2017

Dole rules tightened in radical welfare shake-up

Michael Brennan and Anne-Marie Walsh

MORE than 500 people have had their dole payments cut for failing to turn up for interviews or training in the past 10 months.

Those on the maximum jobseeker's benefit had their weekly payments slashed from €188 to €144 because they refused to co-operate. The Department of Social Protection said others lost their entire payment, but said it did not keep these figures.

The results of a clampdown on dole claimants who did not bother to look for work over the last 10 months were revealed yesterday as even tighter rules were unveiled.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny launched a plan he said would ensure that those who failed to co-operate would have their dole cut.

"We cannot have a situation where you have people in the country who are serially and forever drawing social welfare benefits that other workers have to pay for through their taxes," he said.

The 'Pathways to Work' plan has been touted as the most radical shake-up of the social welfare system in decades.

However, this new 'one-stop-shop' system for the unemployed will only be rolled out in 14 local offices by the end of the year. It will only be fully rolled out at all 140 offices by 2015.

It aims to get people off the dole queues into training quickly so they can get a job.

The Government said the focus would no longer be on getting big numbers on courses or 'shoe-horning' people into unsuitable ones.

Around 150,000 unemployed people will be called in this year for 'profiling' to assess their skills and training needs to help them get back to work.

But jobseekers will have to commit to a new contract of rights and responsibilities and there will be an increase in enforcement action against those who do not co-operate.

Since this power was introduced last April, 528 people have had their dole cut.

But according to the Department of Social Protection, another 2,000 people who failed to turn up to two interviews with its officials did not have their benefits cut.

It said that "in the vast majority of cases", this was because these people were under investigation or had left the Live Register. Others had turned up for subsequent interviews or had joined another job training programme.

Mr Kenny ruled out any measures to require employers to hire unemployed Irish people rather than foreign nationals, as it would be illegal under EU law.

He said a nursing home owner who interviewed 24 Irish women for four jobs paying €10.50 per hour could not get any of them to take them. He said she eventually took on four Polish women.

Targets

Two of the key targets are to reduce the 184,000 long-term unemployed people (people who are out of work for more than a year), by 75,000 by 2015.

That plan also aims to reduce the average time spent on the Live Register from 21 months to 12 months or less.

There was a clear admission yesterday that employers had lost confidence in the old training system as a place to find good workers.

Mr Kenny said it was no longer going to be the "old FAS way of doing things".

He gave the example of a company with a vacancy for a forklift driver that was sent someone who had never even driven a dump truck, let alone a forklift.

Junior education minister, Ciaran Cannon, said Solas was not simply about changing the nameplate on the Baggot Street FAS HQ.

The plan also means Sunday working will be taken into account when calculating jobseeker payments from next January, leading to cuts in payments.

The aim is to make these workers take up a full-time job rather than combining a part-time job with social welfare payments.

Irish Independent

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