Kenny launches support service for jobseekers
THE DEPARTMENT of Social Protection will no longer be perceived as a “lost cause” where taxpayers’ money is paid out to people with no work, Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised yesterday.
The Taoiseach said that while providing payments for those without work would continue to be a function of the department, it would also focus on helping people to exploit their talents and employment prospects.
He was speaking in Sligo, where Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton promised that the department was “moving in a new direction” where helping people find work would be a priority so that anyone who was laid off could expect to find work again “in less than seven or eight months”.
The Taoiseach and Minister were at the launch of a new integrated employment and support service (Intreo) for those availing of department payments.
Mr Kenny was confronted by over 60 protesters highlighting cuts to home help services and the failure to restore mammography services to Sligo General Hospital, when he arrived at the department offices in Cranmore.
Antonia Fox, a Sligo-based home help, presented Mr Kenny with a petition signed by “thousands” of supporters. She said home helps were being asked to spend as little as half an hour or 15 minutes in some clients’ homes “even though it can take some of them half an hour to get to the door to let you in”.
Other home helps said they were spending up to an hour or hour and a half with clients where they were now being paid for just half an hour. “We are the nearest many of these people living alone have to a family,” said one home help. “I hold house keys for some of my clients. They are brokenhearted at the cuts.”
Other campaigners highlighted the fact that Sligo breast cancer patients are still required to travel to Galway for follow-up mammograms despite repeated promises that this service would be restored to Sligo General Hospital where a mammography machine, paid for by local fund raising, is lying idle.
“We were told during the summer that the service would be back in Sligo definitely by the end of September and last week I got an appointment for my next mammogram – in Galway University Hospital in October 2013. Why will they just not tell us the truth,” asked campaigner Catriona McGoldrick.
Sligo is the first location in the country to launch Intreo, a “one-stop shop” which means all Department of Social Protection services and payments are located at the same venue. The service will be available at 10 locations by the end of the year with Arklow, Tallaght and Kings Inn/Parnell Street due to be fully operational within weeks. The service will be available nationwide by the end of 2014.
Speaking at the launch the Taoiseach promised that the thousands of unemployed people who get part-time work this Christmas would enjoy a “seamless transfer” and would lose no benefits, such as medical card entitlements, if they availed of a seasonal job. These workers would not be required to endure the “torture and hardship” of waiting up to six weeks to have their payments restored after Christmas, he said.
The department said the average wait time for jobseekers’ allowance had been cut from three weeks a year ago to four days now.