Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Ceisteanna (36)

John Brady


36. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a report into the impact of reduced rates of jobseekers' payments for the young unemployed between 18 and 25 years of age, as committed to in Pathways to Work 2016-2020, has not been published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50256/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (13 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Employment)

The staff and I have been given word that Deputy Quinlivan is taking this question. We find that acceptable.

The question is on the mystery report on the impact of reduced payments for jobseekers, which were introduced by Deputy O'Dea's party, Fianna Fáil, in 2009. The report is now three years overdue. Where is it?

I have received just recently a copy of the completed report on the impact of the age-related rates on young people from my officials. I am reviewing the report and intend to publish it and make it available to the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

On budget day, I announced the abolition of the age-related rates for 25 year olds and for those aged 18 to 24 who are living independently and receiving State housing supports. These targeted measures will benefit approximately 2,100 young people from January 2020 at a cost of just €5 million. People aged 25 will benefit by over €45 per week and those aged between 18 and 24 who meet the new conditions will benefit by €90. If a young person under age 25 engages in education or training, or employment activation, he or she can receive the higher weekly rate of €203, or €229.20 if he or she participates in the youth employment support scheme.

The policies implemented have been effective as the youth unemployment rate has dropped significantly from over 30% during the great recession period to 12.3% in October 2019, according to our latest reports. The rate is significantly below the EU average, which is 14.5%.

Supporting and improving the capacity of young people to take up employment, education and training opportunities can and do reduce welfare dependency and definitely enhance their employment prospects over time, as well as their ability to earn an adequate income to support themselves. I will continue to focus on youth unemployment and developing initiatives to help young people back to work.

Section 7 of the Social Welfare Bill (No. 2) Bill 2019 provides for the presentation of a poverty impact assessment on the age-related rates to the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection within three months of the Bill's enactment. I intend to live up to that.

I thank the Minister. I am delighted to hear the report is finally finished. The Minister will probably understand why we are sceptical in that we have not been given any date as to when we will get the report. I will go through the list of occasions on which the report was asked for. My colleague, Deputy Brady, has consistently asked the Minister when the report, committed to in Pathways to Work, will be printed. He asked about it every single time he had a session of questions, and he asked the Minister's predecessor in 2016. The report was due to be published in mid-2016. The Minister says she has it now. I urge her to pass it on to Deputies as soon as possible. She needs to commit to a time and date in this regard.

In June 2016, the then Minister, the Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, said a report would be published later in the year. In May 2017, it was said it would be published that year. In February, April, September and October of this year, the Minister told my colleagues it would be completed shortly. Last year, she told the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection that the report was practically ready. Where is it? When will it be published? I understand it is now ready so I would like a publication date.

In budget 2020, the Minister deliberately introduced a new condition for those between 18 and 24, allowing the full rate to be payable only when they are living independently and in receipt of State support. The Minister did this purposely to exclude the majority of young jobseekers. It benefits only around 300 individuals between 18 and 24.

Under the Pathways to Work 2016-2020 review, my Department committed to reviewing and reporting on the impact of the reduced rates on young jobseekers. The review involved a very comprehensive and detailed analysis of the data. The National University of Ireland, Maynooth, undertook research that examined the effectiveness of the reduced rates in encouraging young jobseekers to avail of education, training and employment. The Department was keen to have the university research used to inform its own report. It would not make sense for the Department to prepare a report in addition to the detailed, independent research. My Department received a copy of the final report from the university late last year. The officials met the research team in February this year to discuss the results of the research and learn from the findings. The detailed analysis of the findings was examined and used to inform my Department's own review. As I said, I have just received the report in the last day or so. I intend to read, review and discuss it with my team next week so as to make any decisions arising from the research, if we need to.

I have purpose in all the decisions I make. The decisions I made for the budget this year were informed by my gut feeling as to how the money we had, which was limited this year, could achieve the best results. I remain steadfast in my view that the live register is no place for a young person under 25. What we need to have is ambition for our young people to make sure that we train them, re-educate them, reskill them or just give them the confidence to show up to avail of the jobs that are on offer.

I am acutely aware that the live register is no place for anyone, particularly those under 26. I come from the city of Limerick, which has unemployment black spots. Eight of the top ten black spots are in the city. There has been no targeted intervention that I have seen to reduce the number. The numbers do not change. The areas might change slightly but the number of black spots in Limerick does not.

The Minister has still not said when she will publish the report. She said she will look at it. She has told the Dáil on a number of occasions that the report is coming immediately. This has occurred since 2016, when the current Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, was Minister. Who was in charge of compiling the report? How many people have been responsible for producing it? What contact has the Minister had with them? There seems to have been no sense of urgency. Has the issuing of the report been deliberately delayed? I encourage the Minister to give us the date on which she intends to publish the report. When doing so, she might as well send it on to us.

To reconfirm, I received the report yesterday. I will read it between now and the weekend. I have the Social Welfare Bill to contend with this week, among other matters, as part of my schedule. I will read the report. I will meet my officials next week to discuss any of the actions that may arise from the findings in it. As soon as I have that done, I will issue it, publish it and give it to the joint committee.

We will proceed to Question No. 37.

I wish to make a brief reference to a snide reference made by the previous speaker about something my party did. Maybe we have changed our minds. After all, people do change their minds. The IRA changed its mind when it decided to stop killing people. Sinn Féin changed its mind and its members decided to take seats in this House. I wish they would do it in Westminster in return for the salaries and expenses.

We do not take the salary and expenses-----

George Bernard Shaw said changing one's mind means one is wiser today than yesterday.

This is not about George Bernard Shaw.

I just had to respond to that.