I propose to take Questions Nos. 2659, 2728 and 2788 together.
Reduced rates for young recipients of JA aged 18-25 were introduced on a phased basis to tackle high youth unemployment and to prevent long term welfare dependency, and is in line with other EU and OECD jurisdictions. Receiving the maximum rate of JA without a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training can lead to long-term welfare dependency from a young age. If a young jobseeker participates in education or training they will receive the maximum weekly rate of payment of €203.
There are a number of measures in place to assist young people into employment or training. In 2013 the EU adopted a Council Recommendation to member states on a Youth Guarantee. Under the Youth Guarantee process case officers engage with unemployed young people, on a monthly basis, to prepare and implement personal progression plans for employment.
Where young people do not find work quickly, supports are offered through places on employment and training schemes, which are closely aligned to the needs of the labour market. For example, the Youth Employment Support Scheme (YESS) which I launched last year is a work experience scheme targeted exclusively at young jobseekers facing barriers to employment and participants on the scheme receive a payment of €229.20 per week.
These policies have been effective in reducing both youth and long-term unemployment. For example, the most recent data shows that Irish youth unemployment has fallen from a peak of 31.2% in 2012 to 10.1% in June 2019. Irish youth unemployment has fallen from well above the EU average in 2012 of 23% to below the current EU figure of 14.3%.
My Department actively engages with Tusla and non-Government organisations to provide supports to vulnerable young people leaving care who are experiencing homelessness or are in insecure situations. In addition, the Department's Community Welfare service engages with a range of stakeholders and advocacy groups working with vulnerable young people and can may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. ENPs can be paid to assist with rent deposits and the costs of setting up home.
Under Pathways to Work 2016-2020, my Department committed to review and report on the impact of the reduced rates for JA recipients aged 18 to 25. The review, which is ongoing and on which a considerable amount of progress has been made, is examining the effectiveness of the reduced rates in encouraging young jobseekers to avail of education, training, employment programmes and opportunities. This is a comprehensive and detailed piece of work which I expect will be completed in the coming months.
As an input to my Department's review, the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM) undertook research which examined the effectiveness of the reduced rates in encouraging young jobseekers to avail of education, training and employment. My Department facilitated the NUIM access to the data from the Jobseeker’s Longitudinal Database in order to undertake this research. The detailed findings in the report have been analysed and is being used to inform my Department’s own review report.
Any changes to the rate of payments for young jobseekers would have to be considered in a budgetary context and within the scope of the overall resources available for welfare improvements.
I trust that this information is of assistance to the Deputies.