A person who is unemployed may apply for Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance. Entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit is determined by reference to an individual's social insurance record. Entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance, which is a social assistance scheme, is based on an individual's weekly means. Increases in respect of a spouse/partner and children are dependent on the spouse/partner's social welfare status and weekly income. In addition, an increase is paid in respect of each qualified child.
The social assistance scheme model is replicated throughout the social welfare system and is an internationally recognised model for the provision of publicly funded income support in covering the contingency of unemployment. One of the key objectives of the 2007 social welfare package was to protect and enhance the value of all weekly rates of payment, including jobseeker's benefit and allowance, in relative terms by giving increases which are well in excess of the projected rate of inflation (4.9%) for this year.
In Budget 2007, the rate of jobseeker's benefit and allowance was increased by €20 per week, or 12.1%. This increase brought the lowest rates of payment to €185.80 per week, thereby ensuring that the Government commitment on the lowest rates of payment was fully achieved. Recipients with children also benefited from the increase in the child dependant allowances to €22 per week (an increase of up to 23.6% for recipients of jobseeker's payments) and the €10 per month increase in Child Benefit rates. In addition, the fuel allowance was increased by €4 per week to €18. This means that this allowance has doubled over the last two Budgets.
The Government, in its new Programme, is committed to maintaining the value over the next five years of payments for all people of working age. Currently all persons aged 18 and under 64 years who are approaching three months on the Live Register are identified by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and referred to FÁS under the National Employment Action Plan (NEAP). Over the period September 1998 to December 2006, 287,000 recipients of unemployment payments have been referred under the NEAP. While outcome data on the number of persons referred in 1998 and 1999 is not available the Department does have details of persons referred over the period 2000 to July 2007. Of the total (313,247) referred during the period 2000 to 2007, 187,727 or 60% were interviewed by FÁS. Some people sign off prior to interview by FÁS without any further intervention.
Of the 187,730 (approx) interviewed by FÁS between 2000 and 2007 53, 762 or 29% were placed in employment, training or education. I do not have a separate breakdown of the number placed in employment for years 2000 to 2002. However over the period 2003 to 2007 FÁS interviewed some 134,300, overall 34,289 or 26% of those interviewed were placed in employment, training or education and of that 53% or 18,150 were placed in employment.
People remain on the live register while engaged with FÁS under the NEAP until they take up offers of employment or training. If they do not attend for interview with FÁS, or having engaged with FÁS decline offers of employment or training, their cases are referred back to the social welfare local office for review to determine if they continue to satisfy the conditions for receipt of unemployment payments.
In addition to the NEAP process my Department assists and encourages the unemployed, particularly the long term unemployed, lone parents and other social welfare recipients to return to employment, training or education through a range of measures administered by my Department's social and family support service. These measures include the payment of income support through the back to work allowance and the back to education allowance.
My Department also provides funding to third parties to assist welfare recipients, as well as members of their families improve their employability, personal and family situations through education, training and personal development courses. Under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, my Department aims to promote participation and social inclusion through activation measures aimed at all people of working age. The Social and Economic Participation Programme aims to facilitate progression regardless of the circumstances that led the person to require income maintenance.
This will be a new service, building on my Department's existing experience and income maintenance relationship with the people concerned, in co-operation with other relevant service providers such as FÁS, VECs, HSE and other local agencies. The particular added value that will be provided by the Department is an active outcome-focused individual case management of all social welfare customers of working age who are not progressing into employment or accessing training or education opportunities.