Question No. 86 Ref No: 30448/11
To ask the Minister for Social Protection the steps in place to ensure that persons who are in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit are actively seeking employment; the measures taken to deal with social welfare recipients who have refused a job offer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Anthony Lawlor.
* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 20th October, 2011.
R E P L Y
The jobseekers schemes provide income support for people who are seeking their first job or have lost work and are seeking alternative employment. A fundamental qualifying condition for both the jobseeker’s benefit and jobseeker’s allowance is that a person must be available for and genuinely seeking full-time work.
To satisfy this condition, it is necessary for the person to demonstrate that he or she has taken some positive action and is making genuine efforts to secure employment. If a person fails to satisfy this condition his/her claim will be disallowed. In addition, an unreasonable refusal to accept an offer of suitable employment may also lead to a disallowance.
The National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) is the main activation measure for jobseekers and provides for a systematic engagement of the employment services with unemployed people. The NEAP process is a key element in addressing the progression needs of those on the live register. It provides a stimulus to job search and affords an opportunity to explore, under professional guidance, the full range of employment and training services offered by FÁS.
As one pillar of this overall approach, reduced rates were provided for in the Social Welfare Act 2010, which will encourage jobseekers to improve their skills, in order to avoid the risk of becoming long-term unemployed, and help them to progress into sustainable employment on a long-term basis. The intent of the reduced rates is to ensure compliance with the activation processes. Basically, there is a right to a payment but also a matching responsibility on the unemployed person to engage with the system. This, I think, is a reasonable approach from the individual’s and the taxpayers’ perspective.
The reduced rates, which apply to personal jobseekers payments, may be implemented where a jobseeker:
i) refuses an appropriate offer of training by an officer of my Department;
ii) refuses, or declines to avail of, an offer of training from FÁS;
iii) declines an intervention under the NEAP;
iv) does not attend NEAP meetings with a FÁS officer;
v) drops out of the NEAP process.
The relevant legislation provides safeguards for the social welfare recipient in terms of the reasonableness of the intervention being offered. In common with many social welfare provisions, the new measures allow for discretion on the part of a deciding officer, as an offer of training, education or employment must be viewed in the context of a person’s circumstances. Where a customer has been subject to the reduced rate, the normal rate of payment will be restored from a current date when the person subsequently engages with the NEAP process or takes up offers of training that were made.
The NEAP is central to ongoing development in the labour market policy area and will be progressed within the framework of a new National Employment and Entitlements Service which, as provided for in the Programme f or Government, is being established by the Department. The new service will integrate employment and benefit payment services, currently delivered by FÁS and the Department, respectively, within the Department and will be based on a case management approach with the objective of providing a more customised and personal service to customers.
In line with good international practice, this new service will focus primarily on activation. The objective is to encourage and enable customers to embark on developmental pathways appropriate to their needs; pathways to employment, training and /or personal development. The objective of the new service is to offer users a high level, personalised employment support and prioritise the provision of more intensive support for those on the live register who are identified as being most at risk of long-term unemployment. A key feature of the new service will be that customers will be expected to engage with these options in order to retain their entitlement to full benefit payments. The measures outlined above support this approach.