Burton delivers new crackdown on scroungers
DOLE claimants who persistently refuse to take up work face being stripped of their payments for over two months, it's been confirmed.
Welfare officials have been granted sweeping new powers that will allow them to further clamp down on individuals who claim the payment without making any effort to find employment.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has signed off on measures which will see an individual's dole completely cut off for up to nine weeks.
Internal department documents, seen by the Herald, set out how payments will be suspended if an individual turns down offers of work, training or education.
A total of 2,841 individuals have already had their benefits cut since April 2011 – an average of 100 per week.
However the new measures, contained in the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, will introduce an even harsher sanction for claimants who persistently fail to take up opportunities of work or further training.
Under the current law, officials can dock an individual's dole by €44 if they fail to turn up for an interview, or refuse to take up a work or training placement offered by the department or FAS.
But the new measures go a step further and provide for the suspension of nine weeks' worth of payments. They will apply to those who have already had penalties imposed – but still refuse to take up job offers.
"So if a person has seen their payment reduced as a result of a penalty rate, but still refuses to engage with the department's services, deciding officers will be enabled to impose a further sanction – suspending their jobseeker's payment for up to nine weeks," according to the department documents.
The news comes 12 months after the Labour minister pledged the crackdown in an interview with this newspaper.
The measures have already been passed by the Dail and the Seanad and are due to be activated from July 1.
Sinn Fein, however, said the Government's "main focus" should be job creation instead of slashing the dole.
"The reality is that, for the vast majority of people, the jobs simply are not there," said party senator David Cullinane.