Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (179)

Brendan Smith

Question:

180 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will give urgent consideration to the problems outlined in correspondence (details supplied) regarding difficulties facing young persons in relation to homelessness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35854/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The €100 rate of jobseeker's allowance was introduced for claimants aged under 20 in April 2009, and this rate was applied to claimants aged up to 21 from December 2009. The €100 rate does not apply certain categories of claimant including:

claimants with a qualified child;

those transferring to Jobseeker's Allowance immediately after exhausting their entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit;

those making a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance where that claim is linked to a Jobseeker's Allowance claim made within the previous 12 months to which the maximum personal rate applied;

those transferring directly to Jobseeker's Allowance from Disability Allowance;

certain people who were in the care of the HSE during the period of 12 months before he or she reached the age of 18.

A rate of €144 applies to claimants aged 22-24. The adoption of these measures reflected the need to encourage more young jobseekers to improve their skills by either pursuing further study or accessing a labour market programme.

Receiving the full adult rate of a jobseekers payment without a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training can lead to welfare dependency. While many young people with low levels of education and training were able to get work in construction and other areas when the economy was doing well, they are likely to find it much harder to get work over the course of the next few years. The measures encourage young jobseekers to improve their skills and remain active in the labour market in order to avoid the risk of becoming long-term unemployed and will help them to progress into sustainable employment on a long-term basis. Where a person is in receipt of a rate of jobseeker's allowance described above and he or she participates in a course of education, training, community employment, rural social scheme or Tús, the full normal rate of payment applicable to that course or scheme applies without any reduction for persons aged under 25.

I understand that the Deputy has been contacted with regard to these measures following a campaign by Focus Ireland. Officials of the Department met with Focus Ireland in May 2012 in relation to their concerns. These are being examined and further discussions are planned.

More generally, it may be noted that the Department's role with regard to persons who are homeless is mainly income maintenance. Under the social welfare system, homeless people have entitlements to the full range of social welfare schemes, including supplementary welfare allowance and associated supplements, subject to the normal qualifying conditions. The Department, through its work in the Homeless Persons Unit and the Asylum Seekers and New Communities Unit provides assistance to people in sourcing the most appropriate accommodation available. In addition, prison and hospital in-reach services are provided to explore accommodation options and, where necessary, liaise with local authorities to identify and source the most appropriate accommodation available for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This ensures that, where possible, people are diverted away from homeless services and towards community-based supports.