Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Social Protection, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, succeeded in getting the Department of Social Protection to agree to look at facilitating the thousands of 'Hidden Unemployed' - those who are 'qualified adults' in the social welfare system but who aren't on the Live Register – gain access to back to work or education courses.
Department officials agreed at today's hearings on the "Extension of Activation Supports" ,at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, to look at allowing time spent as a ‘qualified adult’ to be taken into account for eligibility for the various labour activation programmes, such as Community Employment, JobsPlus, Tús, Momentum, Back to Education Allowance etc. A ‘qualified adult’ is someone whom a partner or spouse receives a payment for along with their own.
Speaking after raising the issue at a Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“Currently, qualified adults don't receive a social welfare payment in their own right and therefore don't satisfy the criteria to get onto back to work schemes. Despite in many cases years of their partner receiving a 'payment for them', that time or that payment has not been factored in to allow them access to CE courses, JobsPlus, Momentum, Tús or other state labour activation (back to employment) schemes. Instead these hidden unemployed were forced to sign on in their own name, receive a Job Seekers Allowance payment for periods of up to two years before they could be considered for any of the programmes. In practice the restriction has limited the ability of mainly women to retrain, gain new education or skills prior to re-entering the labour market. Women make up 90% of the 95,000 qualified adults.
“Today, while in committee, I was pleasantly surprised when the Department Officials say that they couldn't see a reason why the time as a qualified adult couldn't be considered for eligibility purposes for labour activation schemes, and that they would look further at to see can it be progressed. .
“I welcome the statement and ask that they review it quickly and announce soon that the required change to the qualified adult status has been made. Many of the hidden unemployed would welcome this move and it would be right to facilitate the desire of many, in particular women, who wish to gain new experiences in the labour activation programmes and return to work."