Kenny declares war on welfare culture
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is promising to intensify government action to end what he describes as "welfare dependency".
Mr Kenny is pledging changes to target the so-called "welfare traps" which create a disincentive to work.
Writing in today's Irish Independent, he robustly defends the controversial cut to dole payments for young unemployed people in last week's Budget, saying: "We cannot allow welfare dependency to take root."
Mr Kenny is indicating the move is just the start of a series of measures to tackle the welfare culture. "A whole new approach to work activation and welfare reform is required to break the cycle of welfare dependency," he says.
Fine Gael's message is also directed at taxpayers contributing to the cost of public services. Mr Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan have been deliberately pitching the crackdown on dole and medical cards to the taxpayers who are footing the bill.
Mr Kenny says the Government is only in the "early phases" of social welfare reform and has plans for much more to come.
Among the measures in the pipeline, he says the Government will bring in external private sector companies to help the unemployed find work.
"We will target the welfare traps that prevent families taking up work," he says.
The Government's reduction in social welfare payments for the under 25s was one of the most contentious aspects of last week's Budget.
Fine Gael wanted to go even further in cutting social welfare, but was blocked by the Labour Party.
But Mr Kenny is pledging to intensify efforts to reduce long-term unemployment and welfare dependency. He says while the private sector is now creating 3,000 jobs a month, we can't rely on economic growth alone to reduce unemployment.
Mr Kenny says the number of jobless households went up by 50pc, from 10pc to 15pc, at the height of the boom.
When the economic crash happened, this figure increased to more than one in every five households.
"This is unacceptable and can't be allowed to fester, otherwise we'll be living with the long-term social and economic consequences for years to come," he says.
Mr Kenny referred to OECD recommendations that are focused on providing more 'work activation' schemes and not passive income supports. "In other words, our young people should be continuing in education and training, not languishing on dole queues," he says.
In the Budget, the Government changed the dole payments for unemployed young people. Already, young people didn't get the full €188 a week dole payment, instead being paid a lower rate. Up until now, young people aged 18 to 21 received €100 a week and those aged 22 to 24 got €144.
The €100 rate will now be applied to people aged 22 to 24. At 25, jobseekers who were getting €188 will now get €144.
A jobseeker won't get the full €188 rate until he or she turns 26. The changes will only apply to new entrants to the Live Register and won't affect existing recipients.
In the UK, Jobseekers' Allowance is paid for six months, and ranges from £56.80 (€67.12) for people aged 16 to 24 years, rising to £71.70 (€84.73) for those 25 and over.
In Germany, unemployment benefit is based the salary prior to becoming unemployed, and is generally two-thirds of gross earnings. It can be claimed for up to 12 months. In Spain, benefits are also based on earnings with a minimum benefit of €497 per month, up to a maximum of €1,397 for couples with two or more children.