Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £1,005,987 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31 adh lá de Mhárta, 1936, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí i dtaobh Arachais Díomhaointis agus Malartán Fostuíoctha (maraon le síntiúisí do Chiste an Díomhaointis) agus i dtaobh Conganta Díomhaointis (9 Edw. 7, c. 7; 10 agus 11 Geo. 5, c. 30; 11 Geo. 5, c. 1; 11 agus 12 Geo. 5, c. 15; 12 Geo. 5, c. 7; Uimh. 17 de 1923; Uimh. 26 agus Uimh. 59 de 1924; Uimh. 21 de 1926; Uimh. 33 de 1930; agus Uimh. 44 agus Uimh. 46 de 1933) agus i dtaobh seirbhísí áirithe fén Acht um Beithigh agus Caoire do Mharbhadh, 1934 (Uimh. 42 de 1934).
That a sum not exceeding £1,005,987 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936, for the Salaries and Expenses in connection with Unemployment Insurance and Employment Exchanges (including contributions to the Unemployment Fund) and Unemployment Assistance (9 Edw. 7, c. 7; 10 and 11 Geo. 5, c. 30; 11 Geo. 5, c. 1; 11 and 12 Geo. 5, c. 15; 12 Geo. 5, c. 7; No. 17 of 1923; Nos. 26 and 59 of 1924; No. 21 of 1926; No. 33 of 1930; and Nos. 44 and 46 of 1933) and certain services under the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Act, 1934 (No. 42 of 1934).
The particulars of the Estimate are set out in the Book of Estimates. It will be noted there is quite a substantial increase in the provisions under sub-heads A, B and C for salaries, wages and allowances, and travelling and incidental expenses. That increase arises entirely out of the fact that the Unemployment Assistance Act is being brought into operation and it is necessary to increase considerably the number of employment staff clerks and employment clerks and also the number of temporary clerks engaged in the outside offices of the Department. In fact, the whole of the increase in salaries and wages arises practically in that connection. The increase in the staffs of these outstations and branch offices is necessary because of the additional work which has fallen upon them and in order to enable that work to be disposed of expeditiously.
There is an increase of £150 in the fee of the umpire, consequential upon the increased work which is falling upon him under the Unemployment Assistance Act. The original fee was based upon the work to be done under the Unemployment Insurance Act only. There is an increase of £10,000 in the contribution to the Unemployment Fund. The amount of that is fixed by statute. It constitutes a definite percentage of the total revenue of the Fund from the payment of contributions by employers. As the number of people in employment increases and the revenue to the Fund from the sale of stamps increases, the State contribution must also increase. In view of the increase in employment in recent years, which is likely to continue for the coming year, we are providing an extra £10,000 under that sub-head.
The Estimate for unemployment assistance is up by £100,000. The Act was not in full operation last year. The first payments of assistance were made after the beginning of the financial year and it was only towards the end of the year that anything like a full number of applicants was being dealt with each week. As Deputies are aware, there are substantial numbers of persons who have applied for qualification certificates and whose applications were rejected by the unemployment assistance officers. They have appealed against that and they have yet to have their appeals disposed of. The number is in excess of 30,000 and, assuming that some proportion of them will prove their claims to have qualification certificates, then these people, if unemployed, will be in a position to claim unemployment assistance. The Estimate, therefore, for this year exceeds the Estimate for last year by £100,000, which we hope will prove to be adequate.
There is very little change in respect of the Appropriations-in-Aid. These arise mainly out of the Unemployment Assistance Act, with the exception of No. 1—sub-head K (1)—which is a statutory appropriation from the Unemployment Fund to meet the cost of administration of the Unemployment Insurance Acts. The others arise under the Unemployment Assistance Act and are taken into account in this Vote as a set-off against the cost of administration of the Unemployment Assistance Act.
I am not quite clear that there are any points that Deputies want to raise concerning these services. I have not received from any Deputy an intimation that he desires to raise any particular matter, with one exception, and that is in reference to the decision given by me that certain workers employed upon relief works of a particular description were not insurable under the Unemployment Insurance Acts. These workers were employed on the Fergus in Co. Clare. I arranged to have the matter brought forward for a decision by me in the ordinary way as to whether or not they were insurable, the main question in that connection being whether the employment was employment in agriculture or of another description. I decided that the work was not insurable, but that decision was contested by representatives of the workers concerned. I agreed that we would arrange to have the matter decided in the courts. There has been some delay in implementing that undertaking on my part, but I think that delay need not be prolonged any more. The Minister for Finance has consented to the proposal and the matter is being discussed with the Board of Works who, as the employers, will be required to give a lot of information upon which the arguments pro and con the insurability of these workers can be based. There is an appeal from the Minister's decision to the courts.
Deputies will appreciate, in this case, that the particular workers could not meet the legal costs involved in taking that appeal and we are getting over that by having the costs of both sides defrayed by the State in order to have the case finally determined. We regard it as a typical case of persons employed in connection with drainage and relief works and the decision of the court upon the appeal from my decision will be regarded as binding on Departments of State employing such labour in future. That was the only matter which any Deputy intimated to me would be raised on this discussion.
I do not know that it is necessary to say more. I am sure Deputies will have other points to raise. I see Deputy Morrissey ready to spring and I hope when I am concluding to be able to answer any points he will raise or give him any information which he desires to procure. The administration of the Unemployment Assistance Act has been in a sense experimental up to this. That will be the main point on which Deputies are likely to be concerned. When that measure was before us I anticipated that we would have, not once but on a number of occasions, to amend it.
It was a Bill to bring into operation a certain social service which in its dimensions in respect of the number of people to be covered, and the cost of it is considerably larger than the Unemployment Insurance scheme. Since the Unemployment Act was first passed it has been amended almost once a year since the establishment of the Free State. Some years it was amended more than once. I do not expect in respect of this Bill any other consequences than those that arose in the case of the previous Bill. That Bill is intended to cover the anomalies that have arisen to date. Others will arise in future and they will call for further amendment. The main difficulty that has arisen is in connection with the consideration of appeals. The provisions in connection with the matter of appeals under the Unemployment Assistance Act prove totally inadequate. Everybody whose application for a certificate was rejected exercised his right of appeal, and some 35,000 appeals altogether were made. Of these only a very small proportion have been dealt with. We coped to some extent with that by providing for a revision of the decisions by the unemployment officers. In some 7,000 or 8,000 cases new awards favourable to the applicants have been made. Though these cases are still listed for decision by the Appeals Committee, nevertheless the applicants have got what they desired. The main problem that arose there was that an alternative system of deciding appeals should be established. Proposals in that connection are embodied in the Unemployment Assistance Bill now awaiting a Second Reading by the Dáil.
We have had some complaints concerning delays in making payments to persons who got certificates and who have proved eligible for receiving assistance. These delays were possibly justified in some offices owing to lack of staff or to a temporary rush of work which may have disorganised the consideration of these matters. But wherever these difficulties arose they have been removed either by the allocation of new staff or in some other way. A number of new branch offices have been established, and some of the old offices have been converted into exchanges. This year we contemplate that the cost of the staff will be increased to over £40,000, so that there need be no such delay in dealing with these matters in the future. In any event the provisions of the amending Bill which is now before the Dáil will, in many respects, remove some of the difficulties which in the past prevented some applicants having their claims disposed of rapidly. I have to ask the Deputies, in dealing with the Act, to bear in mind the magnitude of the task which the Department undertook. We received 257,000 applications for certificates during the course of the 12 months. All of these had to be considered, decisions come to, and these had to be checked. In addition, the issuing of certificates to the applicants following the assessment of means involved a huge volume of work, apart altogether from the work that arose in connection with the giving of assistance to those who received the certificates.
In the short time after the Act has been brought into operation almost 100,000 are receiving weekly payments under it. The number of cases where complaints can legitimately be raised constitute a very small proportion of the number where no difficulties are experienced. The average payment per week is about 7/-. That arises from the fact that the great majority of those receiving assistance are not unemployed persons in the sense formerly used to describe them. They are not persons depending solely upon their earnings for their livelihood. A great many of them are landowners whose means are sufficiently low to qualify them for a certificate. Consequently they came on the register and were able to claim assistance. The amount they were entitled to receive was comparatively small and this brought down the average payment far below the schedule rates provided for in the Act. The cost of the Act has worked out roughly at about £30,000 a week. That varies from one time of the year to the other. As yet it is impossible to say what the average cost for the year will be, because we have not as yet experience of a summer when the great bulk of the applicants had their claims considered. Further, the summer employment period which will operate in respect of single men for ten weeks until the middle of July, will account for a good many and will have an effect upon the total cost of the measure. Deputies will be inclined to argue in favour of various alternatives in our practice and these will increase the cost of the scheme. I see no way in which we can increase the amount to be distributed under this Act without imposing a charge upon the Exchequer in respect of what can be met under the present circumstances, particularly having regard to the opposition that has been offered from certain quarters. Any Deputy who suggests an increase in the grants under the Act should at the same time indicate the source from which the revenue can be secured.