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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 18 May 1993

Vol. 430 No. 8

Written Answers. - Area-based Programmes.

Pat Rabbitte


99 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if, in regard to the announcement (details supplied) made on 30 April 1992, that persons who participated in recognised education, training, employment/work in the area-based programmes would retain their existing secondary benefits for the duration of the programme, that allowances in respect of these programmes would be standardised instead of being varied according to the course and that arrangements based on the family income supplement would also be made in respect of those persons who fulfilled the existing eligibility criteria for the family income supplement, he will give details of the progress that has been made in regard to implementing these commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

On 30 April, 1992, the Taoiseach announced that the Government had accepted recommendations, which emanated from the 12 Area Partnerships and which had been endorsed by the Task Force on Employment, identifying a number of special additional measures to tackle various cash barriers and other disincentives which prevented people from availing of employment, training, educational and other opportunities.

Yesterday, I presided at the launch of a report on the activities of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress Partnerships which provides, inter alia, details of the extent to which progress has been made under these special measures.

I also had the opportunity yesterday to hear from the chairpersons and managers of the twelve Partnerships about their experience of the implementation of these measures. It is clear that the pattern of implementation has been uneven and I acknowledged that we have some ground to make up across the central Departments if we are to realise the full potential of the area allowances.

Already significant progress has been made in implementing arrangements for the continuation of secondary benefits for long-term unemployed people engaged upon projects in Partnership areas.

Whereas the area allowances strategy has made considerable impact in enabling the long-term unemployed to maintain a family income while starting out in self-employment, I am disappointed about the lack of progress to date in proceeding to full implementation of a parallel system of area allowances for long-term unemployed persons taking up paid employment on the one hand, and persons participating in recognised education or training schemes, including VTOS and FÁS courses on the other. There has been no particular problem in ensuring that participants retain their entitlement to secondary benefits. I understand, however, that the Department of Social Welfare encountered initial difficulties in devising the administrative arrangements which would enable a standardised rate of Family Income-Supplement (FIS) to be paid to persons in receipt of the area allowances associated with paid employment and with education and training schemes.
I am pleased, therefore, to be able to confirm that arrangements are currently being finalised by the Department of Social Welfare for FIS to be paid to persons availing of these special programmes in Partnership areas who fulfil the existing eligibility criteria for FIS. I have assured the Chairpersons and the Managers of the twelve Partnerships that it is my intention to ensure that the outstanding features of the area allowances strategy will be resolved as soon as possible and that a co-ordinated strategy will be developed to publicise the special assitance these measures offer to long term unemployed persons seeking to return to work or avail of education/training opportunities.