Social Welfare and Pensions (No. 2) Bill 2009: Committee and Remaining Stages (Resumed).

Section 5 agreed to.
SECTION 6.

Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 5, lines 21 to 24, to delete paragraph (b) and substitute the following:

"(b) in section 142A (inserted by section 6(c) of the Act of 2009)—

(i) in subsection (1)(a), by substituting “22” for “20”,

(ii) by substituting the following paragraph for subsection (4)(a):

"(a) the period of interruption of employment commenced on or before 30 December 2009 and where, in the period prior to that date, the claimant was not a person to whom this section applied,”,

and

(iii) in subsection (4)(d), by substituting “22” for “20”,”.

In order to incentivise young jobseekers to avail of education and training opportunities and to try to avoid them becoming welfare dependent from a young age, sections 6 and 13 of the Bill provide for reduced rates of jobseeker's allowance and supplementary welfare allowance to people aged 20 to 24, inclusive. The rate of jobseeker's allowance for new claims is being reduced to €100 per week for 20 to 21 year olds and €150 per week for those aged 22 to 24, inclusive, who are not in training or education. The basic rates of supplementary welfare allowance for new claims for those under the age of 25 are also being reduced to ensure that people affected by the reduced rate of jobseeker's allowance do not have recourse to a basic social welfare top-up, the net effect of which would be to negate the jobseeker's allowance measure.

The purpose of amendments Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 is to ensure that existing 18 and 19 year olds in receipt of the reduced rate jobseeker's allowance of €100 will continue to receive this reduced rate on reaching age 20, if they are still unemployed.

As a result of the changes being made, what will happen on the occasion of the 21st birthday of those people who will already have had their payments cut?

I do not understand the question.

The payments of those under 20 will have been cut already under the April budget. These amendments extend that to their 20th birthday from their 19th. What happens when they pass 20 into the new threshold of €150?

The €150 payment applies to 22 year olds.

Okay. What happens those people when they reach their 22nd birthday? These are people who will already have had their payment since the April budget and it applied up to their 19th birthday. Will those people go onto the full rate or will they move on to the reduced lower rate? There is some confusion in that regard.

The upshot of this amendment would be that jobseekers aged 18 to 21 would be on €100 a week if they were not in education and training and those aged 22 to 24, irrespective of whether they start ab initio at that stage on jobseeker’s allowance or whether they are moving on from having been on the €100 rate at 21 years of age, would go onto €150.

It seems then the announcement made by the Minister for Finance on the budget was incorrect. He said the new reduced rates were for new applicants. It seems now they include people who already suffered the cut as younger groups. They are also being penalised, even though they are not new applicants.

Somebody who is currently 22 who receives the full adult rate will continue to receive that full adult rate. If a new person comes in at 22 years of age, that person will receive the reduced rate of €150. Someone who is 18 or 19 and who remains unemployed and is not participating in education or training, will get €100 at 20 or 21 and €150 at 22.

My point is these are existing applicants, not new applicants.

The whole intention is to ensure that these people are not unemployed when they are 24.

We would all hope that. As I mentioned earlier, Fine Gael has put forward detailed proposals for getting these people back into work. However, my point is that, when the Minister for Finance addressed the House on Wednesday, he stated these reduced payments would apply to new applicants only. This Minister is now telling us that is not the case and that people who are already signing on the live register who are under 20 will also be penalised.

I am not saying that because they will receive more money when they are 22. They will move from the rate of €100 to €150. However, they will be a new 22 year old at that stage. At ages 18 to 21 they will get €100 and at 22 to 24 they will get €150, unless they are participating in education and training. What this amendment allows is that somebody who is already on the €100 rate at 18 and 19 will not move on to the top rate at the age of 20, but continue on €100.

The Labour Party is opposed to this amendment. We are very much in favour of young people having access to training, education and work opportunities. We do not believe any young person should go directly from school on to the dole. That is our view and we feel that many other opportunities should be provided for them to increase their chances of being able to secure employment.

Whatever about the original thinking behind the approach last April, what has happened in practice is a matter of serious concern. When these changes came in last April for people under 20, it was portrayed at the time as a reasonable proposal that a young person who refused training or work placements would have their payment cut. However, the reality was different. It was a unilateral decision to cut jobseeker's payment for all those under 20. The Minister is now proposing to extend that to those under 22 and to reduce it for those up to 25. That would be fine if there were training and educational opportunities available to people. However, there is nothing like enough places available. Of all the under 20s who had been claiming jobseeker's allowance since April, 74% are still on the reduced rate, so these people have not managed to get a training or education place. Of the remaining 26%, many of them would not come into the bracket because they have dependants, so much less than 20% of the under 20s have been accommodated on a training course. It is not progress to force people in their late teens or early 20s to live on €100 per week. In the case of people who are living at home, it could be a lot less than that.

The figures have shown that the State is not in a position to provide the necessary training courses. We are not prepared to accept a proposal to extend that penalty of a half-rate jobseeker's payment to people in their early 20s. There has been a big switch to short-term training. FÁS provides many short courses lasting one, two or three weeks. A person might get onto a course that lasts a few weeks. He or she gets the full rate, the course comes to an end and he or she goes back onto €100 per week. Nobody can provide that person with another training course.

What happens to a 21 year old, well qualified graduate who comes out of college and cannot obtain employment? It would be fine if there was plenty of employment available and the problem was that people were not taking the jobs that are available. However, that is not the problem because there are no jobs for young people. The Minister should speak to constituents who have had the soul destroying experience of handing in their CVs doing everything they can to get a job, but the jobs just are not there. A person comes out of college with a good degree but has no chance of getting a job. He or she is hanging around waiting for something, because there is no training available. What kind of training will be provided to somebody who has a very good honours degree? Can meaningful and relevant training be provided to a person like that? Can it be provided over a number of years until the person reaches 25, during which time he or she is expected to live on €100 per week?

This measure is a kick in the teeth to our young people who have worked hard through school and college to get good degrees. The Government is telling them that there is no place in Ireland for them at the moment and that they would be better off emigrating. That is the wrong message for us to be sending out to our young people, which is why the Labour Party is rejecting this proposal.

As a former múinteoir, the Minister will know that many young people, particularly those between 18 and 23 who participate in a FÁS course, have a very high drop out rate, and many of them have serious literacy and numeracy problems. Putting up a barrage of so-called courses will be of no benefit to many of these young males. The Minister should consider putting forward aggressive, constructive courses of 12 to 13 weeks' duration, containing classes of no more than 14 and which deal with their particular educational problems. There is no point in bringing them to a short-term course just because they are young people. They have particular problems with numeracy and literacy, and the Minister could avail of the many young teachers who are qualified to teach those courses. These courses could be better managed by FÁS than NALA, which might not have the capacity to deal with that range. This is a socially constructive suggestion. I know many of these young people and they have problems that will not be sorted out by a course for the sake of having a course.

The Minister should look at the statistics for young males between the age of 18 and 23 who drop out. The capacity exists to have really good, aggressive courses that deal with their educational problems. There are qualified teachers hanging around unemployed and they could usefully do this in a very constructive fashion. It could be managed under the aegis of outreach courses at FÁS. If the Minister takes the time to talk to many of those directors around the country who do a first class job, they will tell her to do exactly what I am putting forward.

There are approximately 69,500 people aged under 24 on the live register. The Minister for Finance claimed in his speech that he will make 26,000 training places available. Therefore, we cannot force all of those people into training schemes because there are simply not enough places. Many of those are graduates who will be over qualified for the type of training places I imagine will be envisaged under this proposal.

We are now in a situation where parents, especially those in the public sector who are in the €30,000-45,000 income bracket and who have seen their incomes reduced, will see a further squeeze on their finances if they have children who have recently graduated living at home who may not fit the type of training schemes that are envisaged. Under section 3, the Minister has already acknowledged there will be a pro rata decrease, depending on means. I understand that the minimum amount for which somebody living at home could be eligible is about €30. That is pocket money and it reduces the dignity of people who qualify from third level education and who continue to live at home.

There are over 69,000 people aged under 24 on the live register and a significant number of them are graduates who cannot get a job. The logical conclusion — I say this rationally and without emotion — is that many of the people to whom I refer will be obliged to migrate to some other part of the world to obtain employment.

In the past ten years, Australia was the new Klondike and it was a good place for people in their early 20s to go. However, this choice is no longer available because the employment situation in Australia is not as good as previously. It appears Canada is the new Klondike for many people. However, employment opportunities there will also soon dry up. As a result, a significant number of people under the age of 25 will be obliged to reside at home with their parents. These individuals will be obliged to survive on incomes of €30 or €40 per week and this will place an increased burden on their parents.

What we needed in the budget was some degree of programming which would ensure that people would not be obliged to take up positions on Mickey Mouse courses in order to maintain their social welfare payments. The Government should have put in place a proper, well thought out, structured programme of internships. This would have allowed the people to whom I refer to use the knowledge and qualifications they possess.

The Minister should think about things in a more lateral fashion. If she is going to put in place schemes, these should be properly thought out. People's entitlements should not be cut until they can be given positions on meaningful courses or be provided with internships. If they are afforded such opportunities, it will assist them in getting back into the workplace. My party is opposed to this amendment because it will place further hardship on low-paid parents whose sons and daughters under the age of 24 continue to live at home.

The saddest testimony to the mismanagement of the economy in recent years is the fact that 83,362 people under the age of 25 are unemployed. In November 2007, some 62 people under the age of 25 in my home town of Macroom were listed as unemployed. By November 2009, this had risen to 287 — a 362% increase over two years. In Newmarket, which is in my constituency, in November 2007, some 73 people under the age of 25 were listed as unemployed. By November 2009, the figure was 313 — an increase of 328%. They are real people, with real hopes, aspirations and dreams. They want to settle down, start families and get on with their lives. That which is proposed in the Bill will oblige them to put their lives on hold.

The budget does not offer these people an overall framework in the context of advancing their livelihoods or improving their economic or social circumstances. That is a sad indictment of the Government's mismanagement of the economy and of the Minister's lack of vision. The Minister has an inability to think outside the box. She is obliged to cut her budget but there is no cross-departmental approach involving her Department and the Departments of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Education and Science to the problems to which I refer.

Many of the 83,000 people under the age of 25 who are unemployed were seduced by the money that was available on building sites. They left school and did not pursue third level options and, as Deputy Kenny stated, they are now in desperate need of retraining. I do not have any confidence in FÁS's capacity to provide these people with training opportunities. That organisation is bereft of any credibility. This is particularly disappointing because we need an organisation such as FÁS to step into the breach. Identifying training needs and directing people to FÁS will not achieve the kind of fundamental reskilling required by those who were formerly employed on building sites.

There will be many third level graduates who will have no alternative but to emigrate. The loss to our economy, which has helped educate these people to a very high standard, will be significant. There is a need to think outside the box in the context of offering incentives to companies which might offer these people internships. Perhaps financial assistance could be provided and these individuals could continue to draw jobseeker's allowance, which could be topped up by an employer. Local authorities could provide young graduate engineers and architects with opportunities. There is a major deficit of architectural flair among our various local authorities. The graduates to whom I refer could be given some basic work experience by the authorities and this would then assist them in gaining more permanent job opportunities.

The budget, which lacks vision, does not offer these people any hope. That is the real tragedy with regard to where matters stand in the context of unemployment. Fine Gael published a range of initiatives which, if adopted, would take up to 50,000 young people off the live register in the coming 12 months. I regret to say that the Minister's lack of vision will consign the energy, abilities and dreams of these people to the dustbin for a further 12 months.

I am my party's spokesperson on enterprise, trade and employment and for the past number of months I have been exhorting the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to take proactive and positive steps in respect of this matter. On all occasions, the Tánaiste indicated to me that she was working in conjunction with the Minister for Education and Science to see what could be done. However, the budget does not appear to bestow any great credence to that assertion. The budget contains many references to places on courses, etc. However, most courses are bursting at the seams. How, therefore, are we supposed to get people back to work or encourage them to retrain or return to education?

It is peculiar that, in the context of the €50 and €100 reductions in weekly income, this is the one area in which the Government wielded the axe in a manner that was even more vicious than suggested in the McCarthy report. Why was that the case?

It would have been better if the Minister had, in conjunction with the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, reconsidered the position with regard to the back to work and back to education allowances. In addition, the Government should do away with the nonsense of putting in place bureaucratic hurdles which prevent people from taking up training or educational opportunities for three or six months. If a person wishes to return to education, he or she should be allowed to do so. He or she should not be obliged to jump through hoops or be made to sign on for social welfare before being able to avail of a training or educational opportunity. All the obstacles should be removed. Repackaging the old solutions is a waste of time because circumstances have changed.

Ireland has the second highest rate of unemployment among young people in western Europe. One third of men under the age of 25 and one quarter of all young people are unemployed. I cannot see how the proposal before the House is going to help. It would be fine and dandy if opportunities were available. Where are those opportunities? How can people obtain meaningful training opportunities? It is no use putting someone in a room, giving them a telephone and explaining how to make or receive a call or record a message. The training opportunities offered to young people must be meaningful in nature and must lead on to something positive. We must also find a way to allow people to participate in education. The Government's response to the current difficulties has been completely inadequate. In the context of scale, it has been deficient and from the perspective of effort, it has been abysmal. As Deputy Sherlock stated, the Government lacks imagination and vision. Both of these are critical.

The Labour Party brought forward a document relating to this matter. The Labour Party finance spokesperson, Deputy Joan Burton, will speak further on this. We spent ages trying to get agreement for graduate and back to work schemes and internships at local authorities and public bodies. I raised this at the meeting of the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment. We invest a major amount of money in our education system and produce top class graduates. I spoke to someone yesterday about fourth level education, an area that might become very productive. What do we do with these people?

This proposal is a charter for emigration. I can name areas affected in my constituency. My uncles said the one thing they got from de Valera was a one way ticket and they never came back after leaving in 1949, 1953, 1954 and 1956. This is a reversion to a tried and trusted policy when there is a problem. It is made so difficult to remain that people emigrate. We lose a generation of people with skills and education. If we are to get out of the problem we are in, education is the key and these people will be part of the rejuvenation. For the sake of a measly few euro, we could sink. It is time we got something going in this regard.

Those who complete college need work experience. If one has completed a degree, one either progresses to a masters degree or needs work experience to progress to a job. These people do not need further education and training but they will now be left in limbo. At the end of 2006, there were only 24,000 categorised as unemployed young people. There has been more than a trebling of the figure. Last April, 2,000 places in the workplace scheme were announced. Of these, 500 were for people under 25. That was welcome because it was a recognition of the situation. However, the programme never got out of the traps. It was like a greyhound that lay down in that trap when one expected it to cross the line 30 seconds later. Nothing happened. By 1 December, approximately 129 people had taken part in it. Deputy Upton knows more than me about this subject, having worked in the higher education sector. That amounts to one work placement for every 3,300 people on the live register.

I have become allergic to the use by Members on the Government benches of the terminology of the vulnerable and the weakest in our society. Everything in this budget is driven in the opposite action. The weakest and most vulnerable are the victims of this budget. I do not want to hear the terms used again because I cannot buy into the philosophy put forward.

I calculate that there are approximately 3,000 people under the age of 25 on the live register in the constituency of Dublin South-Central. I base this information on figures from the National Youth Council of Ireland and extrapolating from the three social welfare offices that serve the constituency. The constituency has been badly served for many years. In recent times, there was a lift and matters were moving forward. Better education facilities were provided. If we now have 3,000 young people hanging about with no opportunities, any progress made will be reversed.

Regarding graduate placements and training, what are the retraining opportunities for a young architect of 23 years of age with a good degree? Is the person to be retrained as a chef or a carpenter? There seems to be a lack of fit between the people in need of retraining and the training opportunities available. It does not add up, nor does it make sense. There is no thinking outside the box, as another speaker commented, to try to find appropriate training and education provision for young people in that age bracket.

One of the major issues in this Bill concerns young people and discrimination on the basis of age. It is clear this is a new measure in the social welfare Bill. The treatment of people between 20 and 25 is based purely on age. The Equality Act is key legislation. Under this legislation, it is not legal to discriminate on the basis of age unless one can find objective justification for it. Has the Government taken legal opinion on the issue of objective justification for discriminating between a 24 year old and a 25 year old in respect of jobseeker's allowance? Will the Minister for Social and Family Affairs publish the legal opinion highlighting the objective justification for this discrimination? Can the Minister assure us this is not illegal? This comes from EU law.

I refer to our Constitution, under which all people should be held equal in the eyes of the law. This focuses on the differences in capacity, whether physical, moral or of social function. It is conceivable that the State can differentiate if some justification can be found in respect of differences in capacity physical, moral or social function. In respect of this discriminatory legislation, has the Minister received any legal opinion on the differences in the moral, physical and social functions of a 24 year old and a 25 year old? On what basis is it conceivable that the differentiation between someone who is 24 and someone who is 25 can be made on the basis of fairness, justice and our Constitution? It strikes at the heart of fairness and it undermines the thrust of the whole social welfare Bill. Suddenly, this year, one can say there is a difference between two people of different ages, whether 21 and 25, 22 and 25 and most particularly 24 and 25. Is there some change in physical appearance or skill? All are fully qualified and most likely have experience. They have lots of things going on in their lives and most likely they have the same pain and sense of letdown as victims of the economic collapse, due to the economic decisions of the Government in recent years and the way it blew the boom, something to which these young people were not party. In what way is it conceivable to find objective justification for the discriminatory legislation to make a distinction between these people? This requires an answer before anyone can proceed to vote for this legislation.

Mar aon le daoine eile, nuair a d'ardaigh mé ceist faoi na daoine atá faoi 25 bliain d'aois, luaigh mé na figiúrí faoin méid de na daoine sin atá as obair faoi láthair, 74,100 duine. Dar ndóigh, beidh níos mó as obair amach anseo. Chonaic mé fógra tamall ó shin agus chonaic mé go bhfuil níos mó daoine á chur as obair i gCaisleán an Bharraigh inniu mar tá comhlacht mór ag dúnadh agus ag cur 65 duine ar an scrap heap sin, an dole. Déan buille faoi thuairim cé mhéad daoine ina measc siúd atá faoi 24. An mbeidh siadsan cláraithe mar dhaoine dífhostaithe roimh an spriocdáta. Cé mhéad díobh a bheidh thíos leis maidir leis an liúntas toisc an cinneadh atá glactha ag an Rialtas?

Aontaím leis an méid a bhí le rá ag an Teachta Lee. Luaigh mé níos luaithe gur shíl mé go raibh idirdhealú mídhleathach á dhéanamh anseo ó thaobh aois de. Ba mhaith liom dá bhfeicfimis duine óg ag tógaint cáis i gcoinne an Rialtais de bharr go bhfuil an idirdhealú seo á dhéanamh. Más saoránach duine agus aois 18 sroichte aige nó aici, is saoránach an duine sin le cearta uile iomlán an saoránaigh, seachas ceann nó dhó. Mar shampla, ní féidir a bheith mar Uachtarán na tíre seo mura bhuil aois 35 sroichte ag duine. Seachas sin, níl aon eolas agam faoi aon idirdhealú eile a déantar i gcóras an Stáit maidir le daoine atá idir 18 agus 24.

I am reiterating what I said earlier so I will not go on for too long because there are other matters to discuss. Deputy Upton mentioned the figures for Dublin South Central. There are 918 such people in Ballyfermot alone because the dole office there deals only with Dublin 10. There are no jobs in Ballyfermot and there are no additional training places there. Every community employment course or job initiative programme that was available is over-subscribed. Where are these 918 people, and every young person who will become unemployed after 1 January, to go? They will not have places because the Government schemes have not delivered education, retraining or work placement.

I agree with those Deputies who mentioned graduates. People will qualify next June as engineers, scientists, physicians, computer technicians and what-not and there will be nothing for them to do. The Government has made no plans to create jobs to ensure that the State's investment in those graduates remains here. The only thing the Government seems willing to do is to kick them further away. It is hard enough being a young person starting off in any job, when there are jobs, but worse to be told that the Government will hammer one when one finishes college next June. The Government's alternative seems to be to release the safety valve and send them off on the bád bán, somewhere else in the world and make them somebody else's problem. That is bad economics because the Government will have lost the investment of 18 or 22 years of education in those young people.

I will not quote the Proclamation but to cherish the young people means ensuring that when they have finished their education, they get a chance. There is no chance because the Government has not woken up to the fact that post-leaving certificate courses are five times oversubscribed. People cannot get onto the courses available. Most of the people on the courses do not come from Ballyfermot. They come from elsewhere, which is good but it means that there are fewer courses. The FÁS courses in Ballyfermot are out the door. Due to the Government cutbacks in FÁS, there are fewer courses available. There is a logic to that because the construction industry has collapsed so there is no point training hundreds of electricians or bricklayers because there are so many available already.

What training is available for those who finish their leaving certificate next year? Where are the courses? What is the plan for the economy? Is it a knowledge economy? If so, the Government needs to start investing in it but there is no investment. There is nothing for those who get degrees as computer engineers or scientists because two years into this economic crisis the Government has not had the cop on to roll out a proper investment in the future. There is no jobs stimulus package. If we do not start one, other countries will attract the jobs that we have earmarked and we will be left with the dregs and will have to suffer a recession for much longer than we should have to.

I had hoped to speak to the section but everyone is speaking to the amendment. Young people are looking for jobs. They need the hope of a job but nothing was presented in the budget to give them that hope. One in four young people is out of work. The Minister says that the thinking behind this measure is to give people an incentive to get into a training course but the courses are not being provided. While €56 million is being made available for short-term FÁS courses, €48 million is being stripped from the supports such as youthreach, vocational education training opportunities and student grants. The net amount made available for young people is a paltry €8 million.

We in Fine Gael want to provide extra opportunities for young people by taking some of the savings that could be made in the overall social welfare budget to try to get young people off the live register and using the funds that would make available to create 13,000 graduate internship places, 10,000 second chance education scheme placements and an extra 5,000 community employment scheme places, along with 10,000 jobs as a result of a workshare scheme. They are real places for young people on the live register who do not have hope.

The Government is putting resources back into FÁS, an agency that has been discredited. It did not deliver for young people during the good times and will not deliver for them in the current climate. It is disappointing that the Government has decided to make an across the board cut in payments to young people, telling them to get onto training courses without providing the opportunities for them to avail of those courses. We need to give our young people hope and the only way we can do that is by giving them training places and job opportunities. We in Fine Gael have set out detailed proposals for creating job and training opportunities that would give them the hope they need and ensure that next January they do not have to go to Dublin Airport or any other airport to emigrate. This will be a very dark Christmas for many families with young people at home when on Christmas day parents look around the table and think that this may be their son's or daughter's last Christmas at home as a result of the failed policies of this Government.

I am mystified by the dedication of €56 million to short FÁS courses which the budget documents describe as ten to 20 week courses. As has been said by many other speakers, the short courses in FÁS, some of which, as Deputy Shortall said, are actually only of two to three weeks' duration, are of seriously limited value except where they are provided as part of an arrangement with an employer. I say this as one who has worked much in third level education. It is a form of insanity.

I do not know why the Government has not attempted to reform FÁS. I know it is not the Minister's brief but it is deeply disappointing to see that the only public information about FÁS this week is that the former director general, as part of his very generous package, has got a car worth €60,000. I do not particularly expect the man to go around on a bike or anything like that but it is unbelievable that FÁS is provided for in this way.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is minus €50 million in the budget figures. That sum is made up, as has been said, of reductions to CE, to job initiatives and to Skillnets, which most Deputies would agree is actually pretty effective. They are all going down and, in return, we are getting €56 million in short courses of ten to 20 weeks duration, as described in the budget documents, and €20 million in activation measures. For the love of God, what about some of the people who are coming out of construction? They have worked hard, are very intelligent and have done well. They will be unemployed until they find something else to do in this economy. Even when construction picks up again, it will never be at the same level. Many of them need to be able to go back to school and college to qualify for areas like IT or engineering, where eventually there will be jobs. Instead, what they are being offered is these hopeless short courses of ten to 20 weeks duration, many of them provided by FÁS contractors. Let us face it, in everything we have heard about FÁS over the past year or so, we learned that many of the FÁS contractors have party political affiliations to Fianna Fáil. One wonders what is going to happen to the €56 million and €20 million.

The €20 million is in regard to activation measures. I hope the activation measures are open to private employers, NGOs and public sector bodies. We have put forward a graduate internship programme as a bridge to employment. Professor Blanchflower, a former member of the UK's Monetary Policy Committee, was in Dublin a month ago. I met him at length because he is one of the world's experts on unemployment among young people. There is so much research in this and other countries to show that if somebody becomes unemployed when they are a young adult aged 18 to about 25, the longer the unemployment lasts and the more scarring it is. If it lasts for more than a year and a half, the effects are still felt by most of those individuals when they are 40, because they have basically missed out on a critical time in their life when they are full of hope, expectation and energy, and want to do something. It is the time when they want to be their own person and want to be an adult — they want to be men out on a construction site, working with construction workers. Instead, what they are being offered is a diet of getting up late in the morning, watching videos. It is a lifestyle everyone here is familiar with and it is not conducive to strong personal development. Ten to 20 week courses are not the solution to that.

If the Government wants to spend that money, it could provide 10,000 places in community colleges and colleges of further education in the VECs, where there is a huge oversubscription by people looking for one to two year courses. That would then enable those people to go back to college and get a serious qualification for areas of the economy where there are and will be job vacancies, particularly through foreign direct investment. Just to pump it into FÁS without that organisation being reformed seems to be extraordinarily lax.

I wish to refer to fourth level researchers. We enticed back to Ireland some of the most qualified fourth level graduates who had done their PhDs abroad. They came back and are working in places like the centres in UCD, DCU, Trinity and DIT. Some of the teams they are working with have world class reputations. However, while they were enticed back, it was to contract employment. Many of them have commitments to mortgages because the understanding was, with the emphasis by the Government on the smart economy, that they could be looking at continued contracts for at least ten years and then have a reasonable chance of getting a tenured job in third level or direct research in industry. All of that is going by the board.

I repeat that it is extraordinary folly for the Government to impose cuts at third level of approximately 4% for all of the universities and the DIT — the Minister should look at the small print figures in the budget. Again, these are people who came back to Ireland full of hope. They were a flagship for us and letting them go is like letting go Waterford Glass and other iconic flagships, such as SR Technics, where 1,200 highly skilled people were let go due to complete ineptitude on the part of the Government, and Aer Lingus, given what is currently happening there. We need a serious revision of policy.

What is being proposed in the Bill, instead of creating a framework of hope, will actually blight areas. The areas that we all know went downhill seriously in the 1980s will now face even more blight. There are 2,500 local authority houses in the Dublin 15 area. People have been getting unemployment payments, and young people had been going on to college and staying on longer at school. With the kind of package announced in the budget, it appears we are going back to the future in terms of reservoirs of estates where the unemployment rate will once again become very high, particularly among young men. That is a calamity and a profound social mistake on the part of the Government.

When Henry Ford introduced the Model T, somebody asked him what colours would be available. He replied: "You can have any colour you like as long as it's black." I am afraid, for the 60,000 young people who will come onto the labour market every year and will not be able to get a job, the option at present seems to be the basic jobseeker's benefit because there will not be enough training places available. The ways and means by which places are to be made available are not seriously being updated or reformed in line with current needs.

I support all the speakers who raised concerns about FÁS being handed the entire responsibility for retraining, and I would like to hear the Minister's response. To begin with, FÁS has no business being involved in CE schemes. These schemes would be better in a properly resourced Department of Social and Family Affairs, so that people with a range of skills would avail of a CE scheme in order to learn, train and work. The very least we need to be able to do for young people is to tell them that at the end of this CE scheme, whatever amount of money the person gets, they will get work of value and the person will be able to look back and say: "I did something useful while I was on that scheme and it has stood me in good stead for whenever an opportunity for a proper career occurs." It does not seem there is any emphasis on this at present.

The amount of extra provision being made is 26,000 places to bring the number up to a total of 180,000, if we are to believe the amount of people who would come in under the net as per this section. I believe it will probably be a third of that. That is not adequate training for the entire population of unemployed people.

With regard to protecting and stimulating jobs, a national retrofit programme has been announced. Will there be any co-operation with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and others in providing programmes to retrain people to roll that out? It has major potential.

FÁS must be re-evaluated, and perhaps even scrapped and something new put in its place that will be effective and credible. Members have mentioned some of the industries that have been lost, such as the sugar beet industry. If even two plants were still in place they could have been used to form a renewable energy core for rural industry. That would have helped with our carbon footprint and kept people in work, but it was let go on a whim by the former Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Mary Coughlan.

Our young people have a great sense of pride in themselves, their country, their communities and parishes. Thousands of them entered their studies full of hope. They now have no prospect of a job and only €100 per week, less than a quarter of what a Fianna Fáil Minister would give as a tip in a restaurant.

In my constituency, 3,202 people under 25 are out of work. In Longford alone there are 1,078, while in Westmeath there are 2,124 people under 25 out of work. This budget will have a devastating effect on those young people who will be forced to emigrate because of what happened here on Wednesday. It will have a terrible effect on rural communities and parishes.

Earlier, I asked if the Minister had any plans to reinstate and enhance the community employment scheme, providing a greater role for VECs in training. VECs are doing a good job but there are proposals from Government to amalgamate them. That would not be necessary if they were given more powers.

They would do a better job than FÁS.

A lot of work is being done to research local history. Our tourism industry is on its knees and we could improve our signage and the whole tourism infrastructure. Our heritage and tradition has been allowed to disintegrate in recent years and there is a role for people to play in reactivating that. It would be of benefit to the entire community and would create a greater sense of pride in who we are as Irish people.

Our culture must be examined. Library services and the arts and crafts industry, sectors where we had a great deal of pride in the past, could be enhanced. Young people can get involved and it would create a greater sense of being Irish and belonging to the nation where they were born and bred instead of forcing them to emigrate.

Perhaps the Minister would elaborate on her plans to instil a greater sense of pride because there is a role there to create jobs for young people instead of putting them on aeroplanes to emigrate.

Has the Government any plans to introduce a supplementary or emergency budget early next year, as happened last year, before this budget has even been passed? I ask because Deputy Gogarty stated earlier that he believed pensioners could afford to take a cut in their pension. That is what he should have apologised to the House for saying; it was a disgraceful comment. He should apologise to pensioners across the State for telling them they could afford to take a cut in his view. It is easy to say that when he is bringing home a Deputy's salary and the devil knows what else income. It was downright disgraceful.

The cut in jobseeker's allowance being introduced for under 25s is significantly more severe than was even proposed by an bord snip nua. The McCarthy report did not go that far.

A number of Members referred to the lack of a job stimulus packages. All three Opposition parties put forward packages. I do not agree with everything in the Fine Gael or Labour Party packages, but there are many viable parts in both of them. The Government could have looked at the Sinn Féin package, which was 100% viable.

It will be difficult to find jobs but unless the Government addresses that critical problem when trying to fix this mess, it will not be repaired. Why not take €2 billion from the National Pensions Reserve Fund and put it into critical infrastructure, particularly a school building programme? As a former Minister for Education and Science, the Minister is all too familiar with the need to develop that infrastructure and to get children out of those damp, cold, draughty portakabins that many of them must endure currently. In doing that, the tradesmen, brickies, plasterers and electricians, engineers and architects will get back to work, jobs will be created and that critical social welfare bill will be reduced.

Did the Government even consider such a move? If not, would the Minister mind sharing her views on the idea that was put to her four weeks ago by Sinn Féin? Did the Government consider any of the Opposition parties' proposals? Clearly none of them was taken on board. At least the Minister cannot say she was not told as it is a matter of record that some innovative proposals were put to her.

Interesting points have been made by Deputies during the debate but to listen to some people, one would think there was not a job left in the country. We are conscious of the numbers on the live register — 413,000 — but 115,000 of those are being supported while in employment. Sometimes we ignore that fact. They are on the live register but they are working part-time or are casual workers. They are not permanently unemployed and it is important that the social welfare system should be able to support people who are in that situation.

Every school holiday a few thousand people join the register even though they have regular employment while the schools are in operation. They end up on the register for a week or a month. In many ways they are not actively seeking work because they have a job to go back to after the holidays. I am talking about lollipop ladies and people like that. There is no problem about paying them but it is not true to say they are out of work.

There are 1.9 million people working in this country and we should not forget that. There are opportunities every day for people to get work. Our exports went up this year when those in every other country in Europe went down. We are meeting the needs of a particular market because we have well educated young people and an economic base that will attract industry.

A Deputy said the good times did nothing for young people but they did a substantial amount for them. Even in the current difficulties, in spite of some people finding it more difficult, there are still great opportunities for young people. I hope they are not depressed listening to some of the comments being made about them here.

What is being done in this budget to support them? A total of €6.5 billion is being spent on an infrastructure capital development which proportionately is the highest in Europe. This will be expended on school buildings and on infrastructure and it will keep 60,000 to 70,000 people involved in the construction industry which is a very important part of the economy. This measure is in this budget and it is a jobs stimulus.

There has been a reduction in the school building programme.

Deputy O'Mahony was not even here. A total of €70 million was announced for the flood relief programme. This is immediate work that must be done——

(Interruptions).

Deputy Reilly was not here either.

I was watching from my office.

A total of €70 million was supplied for the flood relief programme and this will provide not only valuable work, but also valuable employment for people. The retrofitting scheme as part of a warmer homes programme will provide employment for an extra 5,000 people so these are all——

What has that to do with cutting the rates of pay?

——jobs stimulus which will ensure that young people, among others, will be able to get jobs. In addition, I cite the increased money being given for tourism, the extra millions being given directly to the food industry and the employment stabilisation fund. Deputy Burton referred to the situation in which employers are unable to give full-time employment to people but they will be allowed to get them training for a couple of days a week and to keep them there. These are all the hopeful areas where people will be able to get jobs and that includes our young people. The one thing we all share here is an appreciation of the value and the importance of proper education and training. It is interesting that whereas my proposals are that young people start on a lower rate but jump up if they participate in education and training, Fine Gael made the same proposal but came at it from the opposite perspective because its proposal was to reduce the young people's allowance who did not participate. However, our policy ideas are similar. The legal aspects of the policy have been checked out because we did that with regard to the 18 and 19 year olds earlier this year. It is an incentive for people to be able to train——

It excluded the disabled and the blind.

Did the Minister get legal opinion on the case of the 24 to 25 year olds?

My amendments recognise that there are people who do not have sufficient education and training to be able to benefit from whatever employment is available or will be available. I recognise that there is a difference in the older age group who may be graduates and who may be very well qualified. For that reason, my next amendment includes work placement in the scheme. They may not need further education and training but they need work experience. For that reason they will get the full rate of pay if they participate in the graduate or work placement schemes. This is a recognition of their skills.

Will there be a place for them?

The whole work placement scheme has been completely revised because when it was launched with very good intent, employers came back to us with the case that if they were an employer of fewer than ten people, they would be unable to take someone on but now it has been changed and they will be able to do so. We have shortened the length of time which a person has to be on the live register and we have lengthened the time in which a person can participate in the scheme. The new criteria will facilitate many more employers to take on people and many more young people to participate in the scheme. A young person of 22 to 24 years will receive €150 a week while on the live register but if they participate in either the education training or that work placement scheme, then they will get the full rate.

Deputy Kenny raised an important point about young people who may have basic literacy skills and who are not able to participate in the same level of training as others. We are very conscious of this point. I saw a very practical example in Limerick and I have asked that it be extended elsewhere. The local employment service, FÁS, and the local departmental office co-operated to profile and streamline the people who needed education and training. Instead of sending to the local employment service the 40-year old man who was well educated along with the 18-year old who had basic literacy skills, the local employment service took 18 to 19 year olds, the young people, and targeted a course for them. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan may be familiar with this arrangement. This is the type of co-operation which is now spreading throughout the country, although I accept it should have been established before this, to target people in the right direction.

Extra courses have been made available for the coming year in education and training. One of the good things about an 18 year old receiving only €100 is that it is a real disincentive for a young person to go automatically onto the live register. Contrary to what Deputy Lee thought last night, a person with a work record and who qualifies for jobseeker's benefit gets the full rate. We are talking here about young people who have never worked, who have no connection with the workforce. It is wrong to say a person who may have been working from the time he or she was 17 will only receive €150 at age 24; such a person will receive the full rate. That is also the situation if the person has a dependent child. It is a real disincentive for an 18 year old to go onto the live register if he or she is only going to be given €100. It is a real incentive for them to continue and take up one of the 30,000 places that are on the post-leaving certificate courses. It is a real incentive for them to take up one of the 45,000 first-year places in higher education. It is a real incentive for them to participate in youthreach and all the other schemes. For that reason alone, we could all point to families where fathers have taken the 18 year old young fellow and trotted him down to the social welfare office and advised him to follow on in a great family tradition. That is the type of cycle we are trying to break here.

Deputy Burton in particular asked about the national training fund, the new €20 million which is being provided. She asked a specific question and I think she will be pleased with the answer. We are looking for innovative proposals from the private sector and from the public sector to make extra provision for the unemployed. This is expected to provide about 3,500 additional training places. It is being targeted at the low skilled, at the under-35s and at those who were formerly employed in the construction, retail, and manufacturing sectors——

Private sector training.

This recognises there are people who are able to provide targeted different approaches. It is a little unfair of Deputies in talking about FÁS to criticise much of the local provision. There is no question about the need for the new legislation which the Tánaiste is introducing on reform of FÁS at the top level and its governance. However, local FÁS training offices around the country have started to adapt to new needs. They are bringing in people who formerly worked in the construction industry and retraining them in the retrofitting and green energy technology. This is taking place in Loughlinstown where people are being up-skilled and also in other FÁS centres around the country. It does a terrible disservice and disrespect to the local FÁS training centres to say that they are not adapting in that way because it is happening. The VECs are responding in a really positive way to the needs and there can always be a greater role for them.

Why is the funding being cut?

Community employment schemes and work experience projects play a very valuable role. The local authorities are one group of people who have offered to take people but in these circumstances one always needs the full co-operation of the trade unions. We must ensure that taking in young people does not involve job displacement because jobs must be protected. There is plenty of scope and I believe the unions have a major role to play in ensuring that young people can get the opportunities.

Deputy Burton spoke about the smart economy. Additional money has been invested in research this year. Research and innovation are major priorities. A single line of funding has been created to ensure that there is co-operation and collaboration between the academic institutions and industry. It was never the intention that people in research would end up taking tenured posts in third level. The aim is to get them into industry, develop patents and to register them and then to start generating income, further employment and offshoot companies. Another provision in the budget is to ensure that start-up companies continue to get additional capital allowances and tax allowances and to have those extended. There are significant provisions in this budget to support the creation of employment, additional training and additional education. This section of this Bill contains an incentive to young people to take those opportunities——

To leave the country; to take the boat.

A Deputy

An Aer Lingus ticket.

——to take the education, training and work placement and not to be destined to be one of the 423,000 people on the live register, but one of the 1.9 million people who are still working in this country. It will ensure that we turn that corner and get more of them back into work quickly.

Will the State face another large litigation bill? Has the Minister had the matter checked?

I am obliged to respect the order of the House this morning.

Before the Ceann Comhairle puts the question, I seek an answer from the Minister on my question as to whether she has sought legal advice on the measures relating to——

As it is now 6.30 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of 10 December: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs for Committee Stage and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, in respect of each of the sections not disposed of, that the section or, as appropriate, the section as amended is hereby agreed to on Committee Stage, that Schedules 1 and 2 and the Title are hereby agreed to on Committee Stage, that the Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House, that Report Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put.
The Dáil divided by electronic means.

Given the vicious nature of this measure, the people affected by it and the method used by the Government to rush it — indeed, to bulldoze it through the House — as a teller, under Standing Order 69 I propose that the vote be taken by other than electronic means.

As Deputy Emmet Stagg is a Whip, under Standing Order 69 he is entitled to call a vote through the lobby.

Question again put: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs for Committee Stage and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, in respect of each of the sections not disposed of, that the section or, as appropriate, the section as amended is hereby agreed to on Committee Stage, that Schedules 1 and 2 and the Title are hereby agreed to on Committee Stage, that the Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House, that Report Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."

The Dáil divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 75.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, George.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.
The Dáil adjourned at 7 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 15 December 2009.