Wednesday 17 January 2018

Jobless to be stripped of benefits if they don’t sign up to work initiatives

Lyndsey Telford

A NEW Government scheme to cut dole queues could see the unemployed stripped of benefits unless they sign up for back-to-work initiatives.

Pathways to Work, launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, aims to get 75,000 people off the Live Register by 2015.

Mr Kenny said: "Pathways to Work will introduce a new code of rights and responsibilities where, in return for welfare support, jobseekers must actively seek employment or engage with employment or training courses.

"When new job opportunities come, we want unemployed people to be at the front of the queue."

The Taoiseach added that the scheme is fundamentally linked to the Government's Action Plan for Jobs.

The plan, launched last week, will aim to get 100,000 unemployed people back into the workforce by 2016.

People signing on for benefits will have to sign pledges to attend mandatory meetings with case workers and prove they are seeking work.

Ms Burton warned that 520 people have already lost their payments for failing to meet requirements to get off the Live Register.

People on long-term benefits will be forced to attend regular interviews with a case worker to prove they are actively seeking work through state training, education and internships.

They will be required to complete extensive questionnaires and the Department of Social Protection aims to profile 150,000 jobseekers this year alone.

Mr Kenny said the new scheme will be a complete overhaul of how the state supports jobseekers.

Mr Kenny insisted Pathways to Work will aim to ensure people are suited to the jobs they are encouraged to apply for.

He said mistakes had been made in the past, for example when people with no experience on a building site had been put forward for jobs driving forklift trucks.

"It's a case of finding out what their particular skills and flairs are and what they've got to offer," he said.

"This is an opening of a door, not just a vote of confidence but a demonstration that Government is serious about this."

Mr Kenny said he was determined that unemployed people would be at the front of the queue when applying for work.

Long-term unemployed include those who have been receiving benefits for more than 12 months. They will be required under the scheme to sign a contract promising to engage with the Pathway to Work measures.

Ms Burton confirmed that trial schemes have been running in four benefits offices around the country.

She said she expects to have a total of 200,000 people engaging with the programme by the end of the year.

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