Threat of benefit cut encourages attendance at social welfare interviews

Penalty rates applied to jobseeker’s benefit recipients


The numbers of dole recipients who fail to turn up for interviews with welfare officials drop significantly following warnings that their benefits could be cut, new Department of Social Protection figures suggest.

More than a third of the 15,807 people getting jobseeker’s benefit who were referred for interview over a two-month period last year did not attend. However, when a warning that they could face penalties was sent out 5,030 of the original 5,338 non-attenders showed up.

An example of a threatened penalty could be the reduction of jobseeker’s benefit from the maximum rate of €188 to €144.

People who have been on the live register for almost three months are identified by the department and referred for interview with the aim of assisting them to enter or re-enter the job market.

Penalty rates

Of the 308 people who continued to fail to attend appointments in June and July 2012, 52 were put on so-called penalty rates or reduced rates of unemployment assistance. Some do not attend interviews because they have found a job and exited the live register.

A total of 1,807 penalty rates have been applied up to the end of 2012. Provision for reduced rates for claimants who refused to participate in the National Employment Action Plan were introduced under the Social Welfare Act in April 2011.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil spokesman on social protection Willie O’Dea accused Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton of having failed to overhaul her department and tackle the unemployment crisis. Mr O’Dea was responding to reports that Taoiseach Enda Kenny is taking personal charge of pushing through reforms in the department.

“The Minister promised to turn around her department to help people retrain and get back to work. News that the Taoiseach will now take over the handling of this proves Minister Burton’s inability to effectively tackle the unemployment crisis we have in this country,” Mr O’Dea said.

“Let’s hope that with the Taoiseach finally taking notice that Minister Burton’s labour market activation measures have failed, some real and effective changes can take place to help those who are unemployed find ways to get back to work.”

In response, a spokesman for Ms Burton listed the Minister’s achievements, including an “aggressive” rollout of new offices, enhanced supports for jobseekers and additional places on work, training and education schemes.

Speaking in Washington DC, Mr Kenny said he was working with Ministers on elements of their briefs to ensure that the programme for government was completed.

“It’s a question of working with all Ministers to see the entire programme for government is implemented in the interests of the people,” Mr Kenny said.

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