Jobseekers to sign 'contract' in return for welfare


UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE will be expected to sign a “contract” with the Department of Social Protection in return for getting welfare payments and assistance in finding employment.

The arrangement forms part of the Government’s new unemployment support service, Intreo, officially launched yesterday. Described as a “one-stop-shop” service for jobseekers, it will replace the three previously separate services from Fás, the Department of Social Protection and the Community Welfare Service.

Those who refuse to engage with the service will face sanctions, including the potential reduction or cessation of their payments.

The Intreo process is already running in Sligo, Arklow, Tallaght and Kings Inn/Parnell Street. Sligo yesterday became the first office to adopt the new service name and to apply the so-called social contract for clients.

Areas in which it will become available before the end of the year include Ballymun, Buncrana, Dundalk, Coolock, Finglas and Killarney. It will be available in all parts of the country by 2014.

The Government said the current average waiting time for an appointment with a deciding officer for an application for jobseeker’s benefit or allowance in those offices was between one and two days – down 56 per cent.

The average time to award Jobseekers’ Allowance claims had improved from three weeks to about four days – a 77 per cent reduction in waiting time.

Launching the service, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was “an important step in transforming the way income and employment supports are provided.

“It is a key element of the Government’s response to the employment crisis and supports the objectives set out in the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs and the Pathways to Work initiative.

“It links the payment of income supports to the task of supporting people in their pursuit of employment and improving their life chances,” he said.

Each unemployed person using the service will have a “tailored progression plan” agreed with their case officer.

The Government says the service “will support jobseekers in their own efforts to find work and to undertake training and development programmes to maximise their access to opportunities”.

Each jobseeker will be expected “to engage fully with the services” under an agreed “social contract”.

The Government said this demonstrated “a move from a passive approach to supporting jobseekers and compares favourably with best international practice”.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said the priority was to ensure that employment opportunities went to people currently on the Live Register.

“This can only be achieved in conjunction with the business community and with the full support of employers. The department will work closely with employers to support them with their employment needs and provide access to the financial supports that are available to help them to grow their workforce.”