Budgeting to address Unemployment

5 Sep 2014

At today’s National Executive Committee meeting the NEC reiterated the INOU’s call on the Government to move beyond its ‘Programme for Government’ commitment that“We will maintain social welfare rates” and to increase these rates.

Since 2011 the Jobseekers payments have been set at €188 for the main claimant and €124.80 for the Qualified Adult Increase; yet over the past three years the Consumer Price Index has increased by 2.6%. In April the Central Statistics Office published the Survey on Income and Living Conditions for 2012 and across all of the poverty indicators they were considerably higher for unemployed people.

“Given the financial difficulties facing so many unemployed people, including additional charges, it is vital that social welfare payments are increased,” said Ann Fergus, INOU Chairperson.

Activation programmes are a critical component of the Government’s Pathways to Work strategy. The INOU are keenly aware of the important personal and social role activation programmes can play. However, the reality is that for many unemployed people participating on these schemes it is not as fruitful as it ought to be. The cost of participation can be considerable: in particular for unemployed people with families as they pass the PRSI income threshold. The top-up payment on Community Employment, which was carried through to Tús and Gateway, was cut to €20 in Budget 2010. Yet looking at a key cost of participation, transport, it has increased by 4.7% over the past four years.

“To address these issues the INOU is seeking an increase in the top-up payments on activation programmes,” Ann continued.

A critical issue for unemployed people who are seeking work is access to good quality and timely information. Over the past year Ireland has seen a growth in full-time employment which is to be welcomed. However, it is not yet on the scale required to give real hope of accessing a decent job to the majority of people who are unemployed. In the meantime access to part-time or short-term work can give unemployed people opportunities to maintain and develop their skills and be in the best place, work, to hear about other employment opportunities.

“It is really important that unemployed people are given good supports to find a decent job and that the system works with them to help get back to work,” Ann concluded.

In the INOU’s pre-budget submission to the Department of Social Protection the INOU called for:

  • €5 increase in social welfare core payments. 
  • Secondary Benefits to be set at levels that really assist people to meet their living costs.
  • The restoration of the Christmas Bonus.
  • 5% in top-up payment on activation programmes. 
  • An increase in the duration of the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance.
  • A communications campaign to improve the perception of employment programmes in the wider labour market to improve subsequent progression rates.
  • Participation is by choice and participants are given the right supports to make an informed choice.
  • Progression into paid employment is actively supported by the Department’s employment services.
  • An employers’ contribution on JobBridge is introduced.
  • The introduction of an hours-based social welfare system and re-design of earnings disregards accordingly.
  • Active promotion and extension of the ‘Fast-Track’ initiative.
  • Resource frontline staff to work with Jobseekers to effectively use back-to-work supports.
  • Streamline the Family Income Supplement process and pay it automatically.
  • Introduce a flexible Back to Work Allowance which would move with the individual.

 

To read the full submission to the Department of Social Protection please click http://www.inou.ie/download/pdf/20140703140002.pdf