Written Answers. - Unemployment Assistance.

80.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare the average unemployment assistance payment to single persons living at home; if she will set a minimum level of unemployment assistance below which nobody would fall; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Entitlement to unemployment assistance is dependent on means and levels of payments are normally fixed at budget time. In any particular case the rate of assistance payable is the appropriate maximum rate less the weekly means assessed, including in the case of single persons living at home the value of board and lodgings. Statistics are not kept in such a way as would enable the average rate of assistance paid to single persons living at home to be determined.

Despite the very difficult financial situation, the Government has more than fulfilled its commitment to maintain the value of social welfare payments and has in fact provided real increases in the levels of those payments. In regard to unemployment assistance in particular, the Government made provision this year and in each of the last three years for higher levels of payment to people who have been unemployed for 15 months or more. In the period mid-May 1983 to mid-May 1987 the increase in the consumer price index is expected to be of the order of 23 per cent. In that period the long term unemployed will have got increases of about 40 per cent, other long term recipients, such as pensioners, will have got increases amounting to 33 per cent and short term beneficiaries will have received increases amounting to 30 per cent.