Long-term social welfare dependency must be prevented, says Burton
Opposition renews its budget criticism in welfare Bill debate
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton: “Signing on for jobseeker’s allowance on a person’s 18th birthday is not the start to adult life any parent would want for his or her child. We must be more ambitious for our young people.” Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Long-term social welfare dependency must be prevented as the economy recovers, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said.
“In particular, signing on for jobseeker’s allowance on a person’s 18th birthday is not the start to adult life any parent would want for his or her child. We must be more ambitious for our young people.”
Ms Burton said there was a difference between falling back on welfare when it was needed and becoming dependent on it in the long term or across the generations.
Introducing the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, she said she was changing the jobseeker’s allowance for young people to place a greater emphasis on work, training and education than on income supports. “This will ensure young people are always better off in education, employment or training than claiming.”
Ms Burton said to facilitate this, the department would enhance the opportunities on offer in the form of internships, participation in employment schemes, subsidised private sector recruitment and supports for self-employment.
She added that the full range of youth employment initiatives would be set out in the Government’s plan for the implementation of the EU youth guarantee, which would be finalised and submitted to the EU by the end of the year.
“Even before any EU funding is agreed, the department is committed to spending €1.08 billion next year on work, training and education places and related supports for jobseekers generally.”
Fianna Fáil spokesman Willie O’Dea said that when an adjustment was needed and money was taken out of the economy a progressive budget would be one which took more from the rich than the poor.
“If the Minister for Social Protection thinks that this Bill represents some sort of vindication of her efforts, or that she deserves praise as a result of producing it, she is sadly deluded. The changes to social welfare payments for those under the age of 26 years means that the casual debasement of young people by this Government continues apace.”
Sinn Féin spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh said many low-income groups were being targeted and each of them would feel the impact of the budget very acutely. “The measures in question are being introduced following five austerity budgets, each of which involved the government putting its hand into the pockets of social welfare recipients and low-paid workers.’’
Joan Collins (United Left Alliance) said the claim by the Minister and the Labour Party that they had protected core welfare payments did not stand up. “The failure to increase rates in line with inflation represents a real cut.’’
She said the announcement of a sharp increase in public transport prices would most affect people on low incomes.
Debate on the Bill resumes today.