'I was penniless. I'd have been better off staying on dole'
A QUALIFIED teacher has spoken out against a "welfare trap" after she was left almost penniless when she took up occasional work at a school.
Natalie Walsh (28) is no longer unemployed and is formally off the Live Register but she warns that the welfare system is "punishing those who are trying to find work".
She was delighted after she was finally offered a one-day-a-week casual work post at a Cork city secondary school after years of looking for a job. But the history and English teacher's enthusiasm was soon dampened.
She warned others who are offered casual work - which would help reduce dole queues - might instead be put off by her experience.
After receiving the offer on August 26, Ms Walsh (left) went to visit the welfare office of the Department of Social Protection to be placed on a casual work scheme.
"The guy behind the desk tapped away on his computer and before I knew what was going on he had closed my Jobseeker's Allowance claim," she said. "I'll not be paid by the school for around five weeks. I have €200 to my name in my bank account."
However, she was told it would take several weeks to sort out her casual payment claim.
After filling out forms, she was then told her means as a teacher would be high - as she would be earning €38 a hour and she might not be entitled to any support.
Ms Walsh said she pointed out it would only be casual work and she may get as little as one hour of work per week.
The teacher then visited the community welfare officer, who informed her that her rent supplement was being removed as she had found casual work. "It clearly didn't matter that now my income was zero. I had no way of paying rent, food or bills," she said.
"I think I would have been better off on the dole."