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Social Welfare Bill is unscrupulous penny pinching measure - Ó Snodaigh

16 June, 2010 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD


Speaking this evening on the Social Welfare Bill Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Social and Family Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that the Bill was putting the cart before the horse in its treatment of social welfare recipients, that the Bill did not tackle the real reasons for increasing unemployment and that instead of once again targeting the least well off, that the Government should be investing time into creating viable alternatives.


Ó Snodaigh said:

“This Bill puts the cart before the horse. It threatens welfare cuts at a time when sufficient education, training, childcare and job opportunities simply do not exist either for the 361,000 claimants affected by this Bill never mind for the almost half a million on the dole as a whole. The Minister has claimed that the Bill is about activation, about getting people back to work. But it’s not. It’s just about cutting spending because the government can’t bail out the banks, their developer cronies and Greek shipping magnates without finding someone to foot the bill.

“Getting young people off benefits and back to work will not come off the back of unfair cuts to jobseekers payments, but rather from a guarantee of meaningful and appropriate training, education or work placements for every young person on the Live Register within 3 months of becoming unemployed.

It’s not just about the number of job opportunities or the number of education and training places available either. A successful activation strategy must focus on the quality and suitability of opportunities and supports.
“Sinn Féin is calling for:

* a skills audit of all those under the age of 25 who are currently unemployed to be carried out within 3 months.
* an overhaul of FÁS which would see it providing an individual plan for the long term prospects of every person under 25 who is on the live register, varying according to their situation and identifying the barriers preventing them from getting a job and an education and tackling those barriers.
“This Bill isn't an anti-poverty measure. It’s the opposite. It’s an unscrupulous penny pinching measure. It isn't about shifting people off welfare and into paid employment because the job, education and training opportunities simply don't and won't exist on the basis of current government policy. It's about shifting lone parents off one welfare payment and onto another less flexible, less supportive and unsuitable payment.”

(Full speech follows)

Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) 2010
This Bill puts the cart before the horse.
It threatens welfare cuts at a time when sufficient education, training, childcare and job opportunities simply do not exist either for the 361,000 claimants affected by this Bill never mind for the almost half a million on the dole as a whole. This Bill is mean spirited, nasty and counterproductive.
Nobody can have a problem with activation policies (moving people from social welfare to paid employment) in principle. The vast majority of those dependent on social welfare would prefer to be in paid employment, paying their way in society and having an income that could contribute to enhancing their lives and their children’s lives. Regretfully the Minister’s approach in this bill is not activiation its compulsion, its penal, its all stick and no carrot, because there are no jobs, there are too few little educational courses and fewer still training opportunities.
Of course there is always the Bád Bán, the government’s safety valve for decades, emigration. Minister, you are confirming Minister Lenihan’s message in last year’s budget when he cut young adults’ jobseekers allowances – “young people of Ireland, you know where the boat is”!
The intention of this bill is to punish the unemployed, those on Jobseekers Alllowance and Supplementary Welfare Allowance. You, minister intend to punish them, mainly young people, amnd with families, for your government’s failure to create jobs. Even worse they will be punished for refusing to take up non existence jobs or courses.
Or, is the minister telling us that all these course, training opportunities and jobs will be in place by the time this bill is passed.
There isn’t a hope in hell that ½ a million job opportunities, courses or training places will be created by July when he intends to have this bill rammed through the Dáil.
What we will have is a repeat of the ANCO glory days when courses were set up the government to massage the unemployment figures, courses which required the long-term unemployed, including many graduates to sit in rooms pretending to learn telephone skills with bananas or just sit there hours on end twiddleing their thumbs because there was no purpose to the course. And the reward was, return to languish on the Dole, because again in the 1980s as today, the jobs weren’t there.
Not only is this bill illconcieved and previous, as I said the cart before the horse. It is a fraud.
This is about cutting costs, its not about getting people back to work.
Minister, the jobs are not there.
Have you not noticed that you fucked up the economy.
Look around you, you have gambled away the jobs and used the money needed to create new ones to bail out the banks, your developer cronies and Greek shipping magnates.
From your point of view, somebody had to foot the Bill, and it wasn’t going to be your friends. That’s what the Social Welfare Bill is really about. Picking the pockets of the poor to give to the rich, to repay their gambling debts.
By the way Minister, what defines a ‘suitable’ job offer? It’s not defined in this bill, another discretionary power to social welfare inspectors.
What constitutes an education and training offer. These are important questions minister, as they could be difference between life and death, the difference between being on the breadline and under it. Living in poverty is a daunting prospect a daunting reality for many in Irish society today, you are looking to condemn more to that reality with this bill.
What of the minimum wage, minister can you guarantee that there will be no reduction to the national minimum wage?
I doubt it, because the indication to date is that is the next target for cuts.
With this Bill the government are putting their shoes on before their socks.
Getting people back to work will not happen as a result of unfair cuts to jobseekers payments. It will happen when there are meaningful and appropriate training, education or work placements for everyone within 3 months of becoming unemployed. And most of all it will happen with the creation of jobs.
The reality is that there is a gaping hole where appropriate education and training opportunities should be, .
We are now over two years into an unprecedented economic crisis and this government cannot even come up with a jobs creation strategy. Such ineptness deserves to be punished, roll on the election.
What of the government’s much hyped Work Placement Programme it isn’t delivering with less than ½ of its miniscule 2,000 places filled.
And of the only 2,500 college places supposedly created for jobseekers in Budget April 2009, 35% remain unfilled, because the supports aren’t there. That’s the activation measures, minister. Talk to the Minister for Eductaion.
The government’s logic of penny-pinching has been exposed by their decision to cut on the sly the job retention fund, the Enterprise Stabilization Fund by €22million last month. That fund was established to support viable, but vulnerable export companies, to keep people in employment.
What of those mid-way through their apprenticeship. The 3,000 or so apprentices who were within 6 -12 months of completing their apprenticeship who have no work placement or the 5,000 former apprentices who were made redundant must be facilitated and supported to complete their courses. The public and private sector must be incentivised to take them on. ESB Networks have shown the way, agreeing to take on 400.
A Aire, tríd an bille seo a brú tríd san slí atá molta, ag an am seo, is léir nach feiceann tú ní hamháin gur cur amú ama agus fuinimh dóibh súid dífhostaithe cúrsaí mí-oiriúnacha, is cur amú airgead cáin-íocóirí é chomh maith, nach cuideoidh in aon chuir leis an gheilleagar.
Séard atá de dhíth ná cúrsaí traenála agus oideachasúla oiriúnacha atá dírithe ar postanna, nó a chuideoidh le seans post a fháil. Tá gá le réamhsmaoineamh chun sin a dhéanamh, áfach, tá fíor bheagán de sin le feiscint ón rialtas.
Minister, in railroading this Bill, you are failing to see that inappropriate education course or training is not only a waste of the young person’s time and energy, it is a waste of taxpayer’s money and will do nothing for the economy.
What is appropriate is training and education which is likely to lead to a job or enhance ones chances of getting a job. That requires forethought on the behalf of the government, sadly lacking in this area.
Where is the job strategy?
What are the future job opportunities which will be available?
What are the companies which will be attracted to Ireland in the future
What indigenous goods or services will be the characteristic of a future Irish economy?
What are the skills that economy will require.
A recent FÁS report found that many of their courses have lost focus and are of little use to young people in terms of getting work.
I would urge you minister to read our Getting Ireland back to Work Time for Action, jobs creation and retention document

The Bill also makes cuts to the lone parent payment scheme.
It seems the Fianna Fáil/Green government now want to rob the food from the mouths of growing teenagers.
Earlier, the Minister alluded that the changes are aimed at addressing the scandalously high number of lone parent households in poverty. I would welcome steps to address this level of poverty, but sadly this Bill isn't an anti-poverty measure. It’s the opposite. It’s an unscrupulous penny pinching measure.
I have stated already this Bill isn't about shifting people off welfare and into paid employment because the job, education and training opportunities simply don't and won't exist, on the basis of current government policy. It's about shifting lone parents off one welfare payment and onto another less flexible, less supportive and unsuitable payment.
This will also have severe and counterproductive consequences for lone parent claimants who are in low paid part-time employment.
There is no denial that the lone parent payment scheme is in major need of reform. The government own report Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents of 2006 contained a range of recommendations including a recommendation that the age of qualifying children be lowered.
However Minister that report clearly stated that any such move must be predicated on childcare supports being available. Even you minister have admitted that the availability of after school and summer supervision supports is hotch potch patchy at best.
The 2006 report also stated that the selection of a particular cut off age “is a matter for decision by Government following a consultation process.”
Where was the consultation?
Why pick 13?
Research conducted by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice into the cost of a Minimum Essential Standard of Living clearly demonstrates that households with adolescents spend more on food, social inclusion and education than households with younger children.
Minister you might think you’ll make savings with your penny=-pinching, but don’t kid yourself . Over the longer term if parents are forced to cut spending on these essentials, you are storing up far more costly problems for society in the future.
To conclude this Bill should go no further. ‘Minister Mean’ and his Fianna Fáil friends Greedy, Stingy and Muddle should withdraw and scrap this Bill.

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