I propose to take Questions Nos. 206 to 208, inclusive, together.
The main social welfare schemes for people who are unemployed are the jobseeker’s allowance and jobseeker’s benefit schemes which provide income support for people who have lost work and are unable to find alternative full-time employment. The 2018 Estimates for my Department provide for expenditure this year on the jobseekers’ schemes of €2.17 billion.
In line with other EU and OECD jurisdictions where such measures feature, reduced rates for younger jobseeker’s allowance recipients were first introduced in 2009 and extended to those under 26 in Budget 2014. Lower weekly rates for younger jobseeker’s allowance recipients were introduced to protect young people from welfare dependency by providing them with a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training or to take up employment. Where a young jobseeker participates on an education or training programme they will receive a higher weekly payment of €198 which is the maximum personal rate for jobseeker’s allowance.
The reduced rates of jobseekers allowance do not apply to 18 -25 year olds with a qualified child, those making a claim for jobseekers allowance where that claim is linked to a jobseekers allowance claim made within the previous 12 months to which the maximum personal rate applied, those transferring directly from jobseekers allowance from disability allowance. The reduced rates also do not apply to 18-24 year olds who were in the care of the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA) during the period of 12 months before they reached the age of 18.
The total cost of expenditure required in a full financial year to restore people under 26 years of age on the reduced rate of jobseekers allowance to the full weekly rate of €198 would be approximately €94 million. The total personal rate cost of increasing the jobseekers allowance payment for 25 year olds i.e. people under 26 years of age on the €152.80 weekly rate to €170.40 per week would be approximately €2.5 million. The total personal rate cost of increasing the jobseeker’s allowance payment for 18-24 year olds i.e. people under 26 years of age on the €107.70 weekly rate to €150.35 per week would be approximately €39 million. It should be noted that this estimate is subject to change over the coming months in the context of emerging trends and associated revision of the estimated numbers of recipients for 2018.
I have no plans for any further increases in rates at present and any such changes could only be considered in a budgetary context.