Monday 27 March 2017

Jobless face dole cut if they skip quiz on benefits

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

UNEMPLOYED people who fail to turn up for their interviews will have their benefits cut in much greater numbers -- to avoid social welfare cutbacks.

The revelation comes as the Government has again given an assurance that basic social welfare rates will not be cut in the forthcoming Budget.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is under pressure to save hundreds of millions from her annual €21bn budget.

So far, a limited number of those on the dole have had their €188 weekly payments cut by €44-a week -- mostly for failing to turn up for interviews with FAS. And there have been around 1,000 people who have had their benefits cut off entirely in the first four months of this year for not seeking work or not being available for work.

But Ms Burton's department will be in a position to step up activity in this area from January 1 when employment advisers transfer over from FAS.

Coupled with the community welfare officers who transferred from the HSE last month, there will be 2,000 extra staff working in a new employment training service.Last night, Junior Minister Fergus O'Dowd said that the commitment not to cut social welfare rates in the Budget would be delivered on. But he highlighted the area of cutting benefits for those who refused work or training as a way of saving money.

"It's an intervention where people aren't taking opportunities to go out to work, that if they don't take the opportunity, and it's reasonable that they should, then their benefit should be cut," he told RTE's 'The Week in Politics'.

Ms Burton has recently been critical of the "passive approach" and the "limited sanctions" taken in the past against those who refused offers of training and work.

Training

She told the Dail earlier this month that Fianna Fail had thrown social welfare money around "like confetti at a wedding" instead of taking account of people's real needs for jobs and training. And she said she wanted to deal with the "small number of people" who had remained indefinitely on jobseeker's allowance.

There is further pressure coming on the Government to take action in this area from the IMF and the EU, who believe that the current systems to help the unemployed get training and job opportunities are woefully underdeveloped.

A spokesman for Ms Burton said that "every dot in every "I" was being looked at" -- including activation -- ahead of the Budget on December 6.

Irish Independent

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