Reduced rates for JA recipients aged 18-25 were introduced on a phased basis to tackle high youth unemployment and to prevent long term welfare dependency. This 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 the personal rate that applies is €203 per week.
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 a case officer engages with the young jobseeker on a monthly basis, to prepare and implement a personal progression plan for employment, tailored to their specific skillset.
Where young people do not find work quickly, they are supported through placement 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 14.7% in August 2019.
My Department actively engages with Tusla and non-Government organisations to provide supports to vulnerable young people leaving care who are experiencing homelessness or who are in insecure situations. Age-related reduced rates of payment do not apply in certain circumstances, such as when the claimant has a dependent child or was in State care during the 12 months prior to the age of 18 years. The Department's Community Welfare service engages with a range of stakeholders and advocacy groups working with vulnerable young people and may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help with essential expenses 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.
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 Deputy.