Monday 23 October 2017

13,000 drop dole claims after order to meet welfare staff

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

AROUND 13,000 people have stopped claiming the dole this year after they were called for interview by social welfare staff.

It has raised concerns that many were already doing full-time work or nixers in the black economy -- and decided to halt their jobseekers' claim once they were called in for interview in their local social welfare office.

According to the new figures, around 13,200 out of 66,000 people who were called for interview between January and July subsequently dropped off the Live Register.

Half of them left once they were given an interview appointment. The remaining half did not turn up for the first interview and were then called in for another. They then left the register.

But the Department of Social Protection does not track what happens to this group of people.

It said it had no estimate of how many of them may have left because they had another job or nixer.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton recently told an Oireachtas committee that many of the people may have found a job "that week".

Interviews

"In other cases, we are not quite so clear, but there is a turnover on the register. The vast majority of people welcome the engagement, while others do not have time in their busy schedules to engage," she said.

The purpose of the interviews is to find out more details about the person who is out of work and offer them suitable training or job opportunities.

The overall attendance rate so far this year is 75pc. But there was a small group of people who failed to turn up for any interviews and remained on the Live Register.

They account for 3,300 -- or 2pc -- of the 66,000 people contacted.

Ms Burton has described these people as the "problematic element".

"The vast majority of people interacting with the department are as honest as the day is long but a percentage of people have a difficulty," she said.

But under a rule introduced in May last year, these people can have their payments docked for failing to turn up for two successive interviews.

The department said that not all of the 3,300 people had their payments cut because some of them had a genuine reason for failing to attend.

But it said that around 1,374 social welfare claimants had their payments docked since May last year.

Ms Burton's department has pointed out that there are large numbers of people leaving and joining the Live Register every month. It said it was "not unexpected" that some people would have left before their interview.

Irish Independent

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