Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Questions (118)

Finian McGrath

Question:

118. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason Intreo and the local social welfare office do not communicate with one another instead of bombarding jobseekers with paperwork (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18307/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

All jobseeker claims are subject to periodic review to ensure that the customer continues to satisfy the conditions of the scheme and such reviews are undertaken regularly by the Department.

Once a jobseeker agrees a personal progression plan as part of the activation process in an Intreo Centre, all other related reviews are supressed to avoid duplication, as progress under the plan is administered as part of a personal case management approach.

In some instances, however, the Intreo/Local Office and/or Case Officer may initiate a review and, in this instance, it would appear that the customer was inconvenienced by a requirement to provide information which had been previously supplied.

This is very much regretted and the Department apologises for any inconvenience caused.

Unemployment Levels

Questions (119)

Finian McGrath

Question:

119. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason within the employment figures long-term unemployment is much higher in Ireland than it is in the Nordic countries such as Sweden and Denmark; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18316/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The fact that Ireland’s long-term unemployment rate is significantly higher than the Nordic countries is mainly due to the scale and nature of the recession in Ireland.

Our economy’s reliance on labour-intensive non-traded domestic sectors such as construction and retail and our exposure to the global financial crisis, inter alia, resulted in a relatively severe downturn in our economy vis-à-vis the Nordic countries. This in turn led to a sharp increase in unemployment in 2009, which has taken several years to reverse.

The most recent available figures show that the Nordic countries have very low long-term unemployment figures; Denmark’s and Sweden’s long-term unemployment rates were 1.6% and 1.5% in Q4 2013 respectively, while the Irish long-term unemployment rate was 7.3%.

The Irish rate has fallen from a peak of over 9% and lies between the low Nordic rates and the extremely high long-term unemployment rates in countries such as Greece (19%) and Spain (14%), where, moreover, long-term unemployment continues to rise.

Prior to the crisis, long-term unemployment in Ireland was at an extremely low level, comparable to that in the Nordic countries. Government policy is aimed at restoring that situation, through the continuing recovery in employment and through labour-market policies set out in Pathways to Work.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

Questions (120)

Catherine Byrne

Question:

120. Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) had a jobseeker's allowance claim disallowed; if the person can re-apply for jobseeker's allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18326/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

One of the conditions for receiving jobseeker’s allowance is that a person must be genuinely seeking employment, and this requirement is periodically reviewed. In this regard the person concerned, who has been claiming jobseeker’s allowance since December 2010, was investigated on 23rd January 2014 in order to establish that he was looking for work. He failed to produce satisfactory evidence of his efforts to find employment, and on this basis his claim for jobseeker’s allowance was disallowed. The person concerned was sent written notification of this decision and of his right of appeal. Subsequently he appealed the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office; the outcome of his appeal has not yet been determined.

The person concerned is entitled to re-apply for jobseeker’s allowance; however he will be required to produce documentary evidence of his efforts to find employment. Should he do so his entitlement a jobseeker’s payment will be reviewed.

National Internship Scheme Eligibility

Questions (121)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

121. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to change the criteria to allow persons who are unemployed but do not qualify for a social welfare payment due to the assessment of their means to partake in programmes such as JobBridge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18341/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Given the scale of unemployment levels, the key objective of activation policy and labour market initiatives is to offer assistance to those most in need of support in securing work and achieving financial self-sufficiency. This policy objective prioritises scarce resources to those in receipt of qualifying welfare payments. Accordingly the employment services and schemes provided by the Department are focused in the first instance on this cohort of unemployed people.

A range of services are available to persons who are unemployed but not in receipt of a social welfare payment. For example employment services, such as advice on job-search activities and the use of online job search tools, are available to people if they register with the Department’s employment services offices, regardless of their social welfare status.

Further, unemployed persons not in receipt of payments may also be eligible to avail of up-skilling opportunities, for example through ETB (formerly FÁS) training for unemployed people, but are not eligible to receive a training allowance while undertaking the course.

The Work Placement Programme is also open to persons not in receipt of a social welfare payment, although the participant will not receive a payment while on the programme.

An unemployed person who does not qualify for a social welfare payment due to the assessment of their means may be eligible to sign for social insurance contribution credits. Persons who sign for credits for three months (78 days) of the last six months are eligible to participate in the JobBridge programme.

Job Initiatives

Question No. 123 withdrawn.

Questions (122)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

122. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will include farm assist as an eligible payment for the JobPlus incentive in view of the potential of the scheme to provide employment to persons who have been long-term unemployed but are not registered unemployed because they are in receipt of farm assist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18357/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The JobsPlus Incentive was introduced on 1 July, 2013 and replaced two existing schemes - the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive Scheme and the Revenue Job Assist. It provides a direct monthly financial incentive to employers who recruit employees from those who are long-term unemployed. The incentive is payable, on a monthly basis, over a two year period if the employee is retained in full-time employment for two years. The value of the aggregate monthly payments is €7,500 for employing a jobseeker 12 to 24 months on the live register and €10,000 if the jobseeker was on the live register for over 24 months. At the end of March 2014, payments under the JobsPlus scheme had been made in respect of 1,874 new jobs with expenditure totalling €2.83 million to date. Some 60% of beneficiaries to date were previously over 24 months on the live register.

Pathways to Work sets out the Government’s policy direction on labour market activation and is a key element of the Government’s strategy to get Ireland working again. The strategy outlined in Pathways is devised to ensure new job opportunities are made available to people on the live register with particular focus on the longer term unemployed. JobsPlus is exclusively targeted at this cohort. While consideration will be given to expanding the scheme and possibly broadening the range of qualifying payments, I do not consider that it would be justified to open the scheme to farmers who are working and in receipt of a farm assist payment. Given the pressure on resources, I believe it is justified to continue to maintain priority on longer term jobseekers, in line with the commitments in Pathways to Work.

Question No. 123 withdrawn.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

Questions (124)

Tom Fleming

Question:

124. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a jobseeker's allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18365/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the jobseeker’s allowance appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer. Every effort will be made to determine the case as quickly as possible.

The person concerned was in receipt of supplementary welfare allowance up until 12 February 2014 when it was disallowed. This disallowance was upheld on appeal. However I have been advised that the Chief Appeals Officer has now revised the Appeals Officer’s decision in relation to her supplementary welfare allowance entitlement on the basis that there was an error of law. The Department was made aware of the Chief Appeal’s Officer’s revised decision on 16 April 2014 and the supplementary welfare allowance should be reinstated without delay.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Questions (125, 126, 127, 128)

Michael McNamara

Question:

125. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection is she will identify the provisions in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 or Statutory Instrument 142 of 2007 which provide a lawful basis for discriminating between those who receive social welfare payments directly to their bank accounts and those who receive their payments through the post office network in the manner prescribed for proving their respective unemployment. [18373/14]

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Michael McNamara

Question:

126. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection if she considers that those who receive social welfare payments directly to their bank accounts are less likely to claim jobseeker's allowance in respect of days when they are not unemployed than those who receive their payments through the post office network. [18375/14]

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Michael McNamara

Question:

127. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection if her Department considers that jobseeker's allowance claimants aged 30 or under are more likely to claim jobseeker's allowance in respect of days when they are not unemployed than those who are aged 60 and over. [18376/14]

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Michael McNamara

Question:

128. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection of the 17,000 letters issued to jobseeking clients between late 2013 and April 2014, the number sent to clients aged under 30 and if she considers they are more likely to claim jobseeker's allowance in respect of days when they are not unemployed than those who are aged over 60. [18377/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 to 128, inclusive, together.

Section 242(1)(a) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended, states that regulations may provide for the time and manner of payment of benefit. Article 192 of SI 142 of 2007 provides a number of options for payment, including through a post office, by cheque or by direct credit transfer to a financial institution.

The vast majority of jobseeker payments are made through the post office, although people working on a casual or part-time basis are paid by cheque for administrative reasons. There are other exceptions, including for instance those undertaking a course of study under the back to education allowance (BTEA) or partaking of an internship under the work placement programme (WPP) or national internship programme (JobBridge), where they may have difficulty accessing the post office during normal working hours and who may, if they wish, opt for their payment to be paid directly into a financial institution.

In January 2014, new provisions were introduced for older people who have left work before reaching the State Pension age of 66 and who wish to claim a jobseeker's payment. As a result, those aged 62 or over are no longer subject to the penalty rate provisions if they do not wish to engage in the Department’s activation process for jobseekers. They also have a more relaxed signing regime and may, if they so wish, have their payments made by EFT into an account in a financial institution.

This measure recognises the abolition of the State Pension Transition (SPT) for new entrants from January 2014 and has been introduced to ease the transition until they become eligible for a State Pension on their 66th birthday. The introduction of these new arrangements for older jobseekers has been necessary in order to prioritise scarce resources.

Those under age 62 continue to be subject to the full conditionality of the jobseeker schemes, including mandatory engagement in the activation process, and consequently no letters in relation to the above have issued to people under 30 years of age, as there has been no change to their signing and payment arrangements.