Group warns against budget cut to welfare
Organisation launches 20th edition of booklet on unemployment supports
INOU coordinator John Stewart, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and INOU chairwoman Ann Fergus. Photograph: Éanna Ó Caollaí
A number of protesters opposed to the property tax and to job bridge rallied outside. Photograph: Éanna Ó Caollaí/The Irish Times
The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) has warned against any cuts to the primary rate of social welfare.
Speaking at an event attended by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton in Dublin this morning, INOU chairwoman Ann Fergus said it is “very important” that the core €188 unemployment assistance rate is not touched “in any budget”.
Ms Fergus added that the current benefit rate is “difficult enough to live on”.
“We’d like everyone to get what they are entitled to but, my God, we couldn’t think of touching that core rate of social welfare,” she said.
The INOU is to hold a meeting with the Department of Social Protection next week to discuss the 2014 Budget.
Ms Fergus made her comments at the launch of the twentieth edition of the INOU Working to Work booklet. Funded by the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Education and Skills, the booklet provides information on supports available to unemployed people seeking a return to work, education or training.
During her address, Ms Burton said it was critical that a proportion of jobs created by investment are set aside for people on the live register.
Commenting on this week’s launch of the new Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), she said she was “particularly keen” that “say 10-25 per cent goes into ... opportunities for traineeships and apprenticeships if that’s appropriate, particularly for younger people but also maybe of people who are changing their field of work”.
Ms Burton said the period after 2008 saw the loss of 250,000 jobs in Ireland: “It was one of the largest, sharpest falls in employment that has happened in any developed country in the world,” she said.
“We have now stabilised that and we are rising again. But, we have to make sure that our fellow citizens who are on the live register that they have a serious opportunity to compete for those jobs,” she said.
“And, it is the job of the Department of Social Protection to help people to be work ready so that they can do that successfully and for their families.”
Mistakes of the past
Guest speaker Dr Mary Murphy, who was involved with the publication of the first edition of the book in 1994 and is now at the department of sociology at NUI Maynooth, said Ireland should avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
“If we look at 1994 and the period (since) then, I think we are facing into a period where similar challenges are about to hit us as a society and an economy.
“One of the big things in 1994 was jobless growth. We had turned the corner a little bit in terms of the economy but we hadn’t managed to turn that economic growth into jobs,” she said.
“Just because economic growth was going up again that that didn’t mean that unemployment was solved.
Dr Murphy said the State wasn’t active enough to enable the unemployed to access jobs once the economy improved.
“Very quickly over a time period, labour market shortages and skills shortages evolved and we turned to emigration as a way of addressing those shortages rather than the harder challenge of getting education and training for the people who were still long-term unemployed in our communities.”
“We need to make sure that does not happen again if and when our economy turns this time.”
INOU Coordinator John Stewart welcomed comments made by Ms Burton about social transfers “as acting as a type of stimulus in local communities.”
“That is one of a number of key reasons why these payments must be maintained.”
“And indeed we would say not only maintained but there are a range of payments and supports that were removed and we would now say Minister it’s time to look at that again to look at reinstating some of that,” he said.
A small demonstration was held outside the INOU building by protesters opposed to the property tax.