Thursday 17 January 2019

20 years on the dole - 700 people still picking up benefits despite demand to look for work

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Anne-Marie Walsh

More than 700 people have been on the dole for more than 20 years despite major Government efforts to get them back to work.

Figures reveal a total of 8,633 people have been on the Live Register for more than 10 years - representing 4pc of the total.

Of these, 6,407 have been registered for between 10 and 15 years and another 1,503 between 15 and 20 years. The remaining 723 have been on the list for more than 20 years.

They represent under 1pc of the total Live Register, according to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection figures.

A department spokesperson refused to say how long the longest-term claimant had been on the dole or the number on it for more than 30 years for data protection reasons.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Social Protection, Willie O'Dea, said it was hard to believe some people could be on the dole for more than 20 years, given the criteria they must be actively seeking work.

"The Government has spent a great deal of money bringing in private contractors Turas Nua and Seetec and spent €70m to €80m on them and their main job is to identify those who are long term unemployed and find them suitable work," he said.

"In the overall context, it's a small number but it still seems to be a significant number when employers are saying there is very little spare capacity in the jobs market and we are near full employment."

He urged Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty to ask regional managers in social protection to provide details of people in this category and interview them to assess what the problem is.

Brid O'Brien at the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed said many factors contributed to long-term unemployment, including ageism and the authorities' lack of engagement with claimants.

"The system left a lot of people alone, either because of their background, or address, or maybe they could have had personal issues like mental health or drug use," she said.

She said in some cases, individuals experienced discrimination looking for work because they had a Traveller background or "postcode-ism", in terms of where they lived, went against them.

"Some employers do not entertain you if you are unemployed for a long time so they don't even get a chance to do a job interview," she said.

She said a more personalised approach and supports were needed for those on the long-term list. Some 58pc, or 116,249 people, are on it up to a year.

There are a further 22,050 on it for between one and two years, representing 11pc, with 6pc on it for two to three years.

In a statement, the department said Government policy focused on supporting the long-term unemployed, particularly its JobPath service.

Irish Independent

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