Government to get tough with unemployed
Published 15/02/2012 | 05:00
THE Government will crack down on the unemployed who are not actively looking for a job, according to the latest agreement between the State and the organisations that bailed out the country in 2010.
The IMF and ECB have long been unhappy with the Government's failure to impose sanctions on people on benefits who refuse job offers or fail to turn up for interviews or training courses.
Yesterday, the IMF and ECB published their sixth agreement with the State, which included tough, new language on back-to-work schemes.
The bailout organisations want the State to ensure that our relatively generous benefit system does not deter people from taking up work. They also want to make sure that there is adequate training as well as penalties for those who are no longer looking for work.
In an unusual move, the Government promised that it would hire outside consultants to advise on what systems should be put in place. This means that FAS and other state agencies won't be allowed to publish reports into the success or otherwise of back-to-work schemes.
The Economic and Social Research Institute, one of the domestic organisations that is regularly consulted by the bailout officials, found recently that many FAS job schemes were ineffective while some actually reduced the chance of participants returning to work.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said earlier this week that Social Protection Minister Joan Burton would publish a return-to-work programme, dubbed Pathways to Work, within weeks.
This scheme will include many of the measures demanded by the IMF and Europe.
The demands will give ministers political cover when they introduce measures that are likely to be unpopular with large numbers of job-seekers.
Ms Burton complained recently that officials from the IMF and ECB were based inside the Department of Social Protection and added that they were poring over the books to look for cuts. She made the comments as she defended a decision to cut so-called Exceptional Needs payments, which were being used to help Catholics to pay for holy communion celebrations.
The Department of Social Protection also repeated a promise not to increase pensions in future.
The elderly here have been shielded from most of the cuts seen elsewhere in society and state pensions are much higher than in many other countries that are helping to bail out Ireland.
In a move likely to be welcomed by those struggling with poverty, the Government promised to make more effort to target benefits at those who really needed them.
The Department for Social Protection will submit "a comprehensive programme of reforms" to help those on low incomes.
Few other countries operate a child-benefit system like Ireland's, which pays the same benefits regardless of income.