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 Header Item European Council Meeting: Statements (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2013: Message from Select Sub-Committee
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 808 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes] The first of the two issues is the hierarchy of the bail-ins. There was a sacrosanct agreement that no depositor with a deposit up to €100,000 would be touched. Clearly, the difficulties that obtained in Cyprus in terms of the construction of the deal were such that it was not positive; that is the most diplomatic way of saying it. Second, it was agreed that unsecured creditors would take a hit, followed by those associated with subordinated or junior debt who, in turn, were to be followed by senior bondholders. The ultimate question is the extent of the bail-in and the nature of the hierarchy.

There is a wide variety of views among the 27 member states. In the past two decades many member states, including Sweden, have gone through what I have described. The scale of the bail-in was different from one country to the next. The fundamental issue is the flexibility afforded by the non-eurozone countries as opposed to those in the eurozone. If the ESM is too flexible, it will not have the durability and power it should have. If it is not flexible enough, we will not obtain the agreement of the 27 member states. It is in the middle of all this that we are trying to construct an agreement with colleagues which, as I said, we hope to conclude tomorrow evening. It will be difficult, but we should not pretend otherwise.

If we are to obtain the confidence of the markets and citizens, the banking union system should be robust, strong and able to meet the kinds of challenges that presented some years ago. That is obviously a crucial issue in the last week of the Irish Presidency and one on which we will continue to work.

The youth unemployment problem was referred to, as was the youth compact, which is such a fundamental part of the MMF negotiations. Some of the remarks made on what was just a political attack on the Tánaiste for his work in the MMF negotiations were badly thought out. More than anyone, the Tánaiste has been attempting to marry the concerns of the Parliament and the Council in trying to obtain some agreement on what will be a crucial area of investment for the European Union in the next seven years. We need to reach agreement on this issue. European citizens who recognise the importance of the European Union's budget also agree that we should reach agreement. That is what the Tánaiste is attempting to do, not just on our behalf but on behalf of the entire European system.

Finance is the key; I do not disagree at all with this, which is why we are examining new means of non-bank funding and the opportunities of the European Investment Bank, particularly as it would ease the funding strain on SMEs. It is worth highlighting, as the Taoiseach did, that over €650 million in investment by the European Investment Bank is available to this country this year if we can get the projects and private sector capital in place. I had an opportunity to meet the president of the bank, Mr. Hoyer, in Luxembourg last week. He is more than aware of the challenges we face in Ireland. The European Investment Bank wants to help Ireland and make funding available in order that we can provoke public sector infrastructural capital projects again. It is worth saying that we now have PPPs across the line is a significant step because it means people are again prepared to invest in Ireland.

All of these matters will be very important, right up to the last moment of our Presidency. The positive remarks in this House on what we are trying to achieve are greatly appreciated.

Estimates for Public Services 2013: Message from Select Sub-Committee

Acting Chairman (Deputy Ann Phelan): Information on Ann Phelan Zoom on Ann Phelan The Select sub-Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimate for public services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2013: Vote 31 - Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Topical Issue Debate

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I thank the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for taking this matter. The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, is in the Seanad dealing with a Bill on social protection.

The issue I wish to raise is the effect on the disposable income of some individuals of the reclassification of Sunday in calculating jobseeker’s benefit or jobseeker’s allowance. A person used to be entitled to claim either jobseeker's benefit or jobseeker's allowance where he or she had not been working for at least four days in seven consecutive days. As a result of a change made in the last budget, we now include Sunday as one of those days in working out how many days an individual has been working and, consequently, the jobseeker's payment to which one is entitled.

Although I fully understand the principle behind the method of calculation, the object of which is to ensure every working day is regarded as equal, I must bring to the Minister's attention a matter raised with me by a constituent. The constituent is working in the service industry for three days each week - Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Owing to the reclassification of Sunday, however, the individual has been hurt very severely. As a consequence, the payment available to the individual has been reduced considerably, from €80 to €26, representing a drop of €54. The change is such that the available social welfare income, in addition to the income from the work done, has decreased substantially.

I am raising this matter because, although I believe every individual is different in terms of income, working days and social welfare payments that may be accessed, the change is too severe if an individual must incur a drop in social welfare of nearly 60%. I ask that we revisit this issue. As the economy and jobs market begin to recover, many new jobs being created will involve part-time employment. For some, a change such as the one in question will reduce the financial incentive to work. I ask that the Minister take this on board. The decrease in income from €80 to €26 is very severe and I would appreciate the Minister's response thereon.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, who is unavailable.

The jobseeker's benefit and jobseeker's allowance schemes provide income support for people who have lost work and are unable to find alternative employment. It is a fundamental qualifying condition for these schemes that a person must be available for full-time work. Under the previous provisions, a person could, in general, qualify for a jobseeker's payment where he or she was unemployed for at least three days in any period of six consecutive days. However, Sundays were not counted for this purpose. This meant that where a person worked on a Sunday, this day was neither treated as a day of employment nor a day of unemployment for the qualification process. The changes introduced following budget 2012 and implemented on 20 February 2013 for jobseeker's allowance and 21 February 2013 for jobseeker's benefit bring the schemes into better alignment with the current operation of the labour market by counting Sundays in the determination of entitlement. Following these changes, a person is entitled to jobseeker's benefit or jobseeker's allowance where he or she is fully unemployed for at least four days in any period of seven consecutive days, inclusive of Sunday. Sunday work has become more usual, as demonstrated by the 2012 returns from social welfare local offices which show that some 18% of casual workers work Sunday in any given week.

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