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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 150 - 157
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Payments
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Social Welfare Overpayments
 Header Item Employment Support Services
 Header Item Youth Unemployment Measures
 Header Item Unemployment Levels
 Header Item Youth Unemployment Data
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 800 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 150 - 157

Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

 150. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will consider increasing rent support for recipients living in areas affected by higher rent markets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19397/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently approximately 86,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided over €403 million for 2013. It is essential that State support for rents are kept under review and do not distort the market in a way that could increase rent prices for others, such as low paid workers and students. A review of the maximum rent limits is currently underway and will be completed by June 2013. Analysis of recent reports has shown that rents have increased in some urban areas with rental asking rates falling in others. Any changes to the existing limits will be considered as part of this review.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

 151. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the total number of persons who have given up employment to care for a relative and who have subsequently been awarded State pension-related credits over the past four years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19398/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I can confirm that the Department does not hold records of those persons who have given up work entirely in order to care for someone nor does it hold records as to whether the carer is related to the care recipient.

Social Welfare Overpayments

 152. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of overpayments of a social welfare payment and or allowance wherein the overpayment that occurred was not the fault of the applicant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19399/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton My Department categorises overpayments as fraud, non-fraud and estate cases. Fraud cases arise mainly on foot of false declarations by customers concerning their employment, income or family status. Non-fraud cases include those attributed to customer/third party error and those that are considered Departmental error. Estate cases arise where undisclosed means by customers come to light after their deaths. The Department is currently not in a position to publicly comment on overpayments recorded in 2012 as these figures form part of the statutory accounts of the Department and are subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. However in 2011, there were a total of 63,310 overpayments amounting to €92.4m. Of these, a total of 6,062 overpayments, amounting to €5.5m were the result of Departmental error. This represents less than 6% of the total value of overpayments raised in 2011 and equates to approximately 0.03% of total scheme expenditure.

My Department endeavours to seek the maximum level of repayments from customers in order to encourage prompt repayment of all debts. My Department is fully committed to recovering 100% of all overpayments and they remain on a customer’s record until fully recovered.

Employment Support Services

 153. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the total number of persons currently on community related training, employment or education schemes and supported by her Department in each of the past two years to date; the extent to which she expects the maximum number of places to remain available in the current year with particular reference to efforts to alleviate youth unemployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19400/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The following table details the number of beneficiaries for each programme and this number includes those on the programme (at year-end) and those who left during that year after benefitting from a placement. The March figures are year-to-date.

Programme
2011
2012
Current (March ‘13)
Community Employment
34,629
33,232
25,070
Job Initiative (Closed to recruitment)
1,310
1,256
1,239
Rural Social Scheme
2,803
2,861
2,756
Tús
2,332
7,227
6,306
Community Services Programme
2,148
2,112
2,086
Totals
43,222
46,688
37,457


Source: MIR Annual Report 2012 & Pobal

The following table details the current number of places on each programme as of month-end March 2013.
Programme Current Places (March ‘13)
Community Employment
22,550
Job Initiative (Closed to recruitment)
1,170
Rural Social Scheme
2,703
Tús
5,107
Community Services Programme
2,078
Totals
33,608


Source: MIR Report March 2013

  With specific reference to youth unemployment policies, the Department’s efforts in this area have already been outlined in response to PQ number 19401-13 from Deputy Durkan. The Department is committed to the continuing improvement of it employment programmes to ensure value for money, progression of the job seeker and support for communities.

Youth Unemployment Measures

 154. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the specific arrangements she has put in place to address the issue of youth unemployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19401/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Young people, typically, suffer disproportionately from job losses in recessions as they tend to have entered employment more recently, are more likely to hold temporary contracts and to be employed in cyclically sensitive industries than older workers. There were 68,000 young unemployed, on average, in 2012, made up of 18,500 aged 15-19 and 49,500 aged 20-24. Overall, the under-25 age group had an unemployment rate of 30% (40% for 15-19 year-olds and 28% for 20-24 year-olds). This compares to an unemployment rate of 13.5% for prime age workers (ages 25–54). Of particular concern is the continued increase in the share of youth unemployed who are out of work for more than one year. They now account for almost half of all unemployed youth (47%).   In this context, it is a welcome development that the most recent official labour market figures indicated that the number of young unemployed at the end of 2012, at 59,000, showed a reduction of almost 9,000 on the same time a year earlier. It is to be hoped that this is the beginning of a sustained downward movement in youth unemployment as the economy recovers.

  The Government’s primary strategy to tackle youth unemployment is to create the environment for a strong economic recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity. Economic recovery will underpin jobs growth. Past experience suggests that youth unemployment, which tends to rise relatively rapidly in a downturn, can be expected to fall relatively rapidly during the recovery.

  In addition to promoting economic recovery, the Government recognises the need for interim measures to support the young unemployed and keep young jobseekers close to the labour market. There are five main approaches being taken to tackle youth unemployment: education, training, job search assistance/guidance, work experience, and encouraging job creation. These actions range across a number of Departments and Agencies.

In terms of education, the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) scheme run by my Department provides income maintenance for unemployed people returning to further or higher education. Over 6,500 young people participated in the BTEA in the last academic year. MOMENTUM, a new Department of Education and Skills initiative,   launched in 2013, has a specific youth component. MOMENTUM will support the provision of free education and training projects to allow 6,500 jobseekers (who are unemployed for 12 months or more) to gain skills and to access work opportunities in identified growing sectors. MOMENTUM consists of four themes, of which theme 4 is dedicated to under 25s.

  In terms of training, approximately 12,000 persons aged under 25 completed a training course with FÁS in 2012 (excluding apprenticeships and evening courses). Training allowances on eligible courses exceed what a young person would receive in jobseekers’ payments, providing an incentive to take up training programmes. Training courses relevant to the individual job-seeker’s needs are available to all young unemployed.

  In terms of job-search assistance, some 25,500 young people registered with Employment Services in 2012, representing 36% of all new registrants. Registering with Employment Services gives job-seekers access to guidance interviews, job search assistance, and training courses, as well as self-service job-seeking options.

  Under the National Employment Action Plan (EAP) persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years who are approaching 3 months on the Live Register are identified by the Department of Social Protection and referred to Employment Services for interview with the aim of assisting them to enter/re-enter the labour market. In 2012, there were some 33,000 referrals of under 25s to the EAP, affecting approximately 26,000 individual jobseekers (those who do not attend initially are referred again). Of those referred, 68% of clients had signed off the Live Register by the end of the year. The EAP referral process is currently being replaced, under Intreo, by referral of all unemployed persons to group engagement sessions immediately on entering the Live Register, followed by immediate one-to-one interviews for those profiled as most likely to remain unemployed for longer periods.

  There are a number of schemes/programmes available that are focussed on work experience. The most relevant for young people is JobBridge (the National Internship Scheme). Over 1,500 young people are currently participating on these schemes. The total number of placements of young people on JobBridge during 2012 was 2,700.

  In the December Budget, funding was secured for an additional 10,000 places this year across a range of programmes -- including JobBridge, TÚS and Community Employment. About a quarter of these places will be earmarked to be taken up by unemployed young people.

  Long-term unemployed youth will benefit from the JobsPlus initiative which is designed to encourage employers to recruit long-term unemployed people. Under this scheme the State will pay circa €1 of every €4 it costs the employer to recruit a person off the Live Register. Given that young people normally benefit most when employers start hiring, they are likely to be particular beneficiaries of this initiative.

  Finally the European Commission has proposed a Council Recommendation on a European-wide approach to a “youth guarantee. The Council Recommendation -- which received political agreement from EU employment ministers in February and is expected to be formally adopted this month -- recommends that each Member State should ensure that young people receive a quality offer of employment or of continued education, an apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed.

  While Member States are encouraged to implement the Recommendation as soon as possible, it is recognised that implementation will need to be more gradual in countries with higher levels of youth unemployment and particularly severe budgetary problems. The government will review the current range of youth employment and training policies in Ireland to assess what measures will need to be taken to commence the gradual implementation of the guarantee. This will include the identification of what would be the appropriate timescale for implementation in Ireland's current employment and budgetary circumstances.

Unemployment Levels

 155. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the arrangements she has put in place to address the issue of long-term unemployment; the extent to which she expects such measures to impact on the live register in the current year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19402/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The unemployment rate is currently 14.0% and while it has begun to fall after several years of increases, the rate remains unacceptably high. It is of additional concern that long-term unemployment (defined as being unemployed for a year or more) accounted for 60% (176,500) of total unemployment in Q4 2012, and for almost half of all unemployment among young people.

  In the first instance, the Government’s primary strategy to tackle long-term unemployment is to create the environment for a strong economy recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity through the Action Plan for Jobs. Economic recovery will underpin jobs growth and thus reduce unemployment and long-term unemployment.

  In addition to promoting economic recovery, the Government recognises the need for measures to support the long-term unemployed and keep jobseekers close to the labour market. Past experience suggests that, without such measures, long-term unemployment may fall more slowly than overall unemployment when strong economic growth returns.

  Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, the key objective of labour market policy is to keep those on the Live Register close to the labour market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. Persons from the Live Register availing of activation measures will get an opportunity to engage in employment, training and work experience and so be in a position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time.

  In this context, the major elements of the Government’s response are set out in the Pathways to Work policy which is aimed at ensuring that as many as possible of the job vacancies that are created are filled by people from the Live Register, with a particular focus on those who are long term unemployed or at risk of long-term unemployment.

  The Pathways to Work policy and the establishment of the new integrated INTREO service will transform the nature and level of engagement between our employment and income support services and the unemployed. The policy is underpinned by five core strands which reflect the new integrated employment and income support services which are currently being established. Each of these strands places the customer at the centre of all the service’s activities, recognising their individual and specific needs. The strands provide for:

- Transforming and reforming the employment and income support services institutions to deliver better services to the unemployed through an integrated approach.

- More regular and on-going engagement with people who are unemployed through active case management and profiling. There were almost 130,000 referrals of unemployed welfare recipients to the employment service in 2012.

- Greater targeting of activation places and opportunities by providing for over 85,000 places on initiatives such as Job Bridge – the National Internship Scheme, Tús, the Rural Social Scheme and the Jobs Initiative.

- Incentivising the take up of opportunities by the unemployed.

- Creating and enhancing relations with employers through incentivising the provision of opportunities for people who are unemployed. A major initiative planned for 2013 will be JobPlus, which will streamline the existing Revenue Job Assist and Employer PRSI schemes into a single easy to administer scheme that offers an attractive incentive to employers recruiting people who are long-term unemployed.

  The Pathways to Work policy sets very ambitious targets for the long-term unemployed to be achieved over the next three years.

- To ensure that 75,000 of those long term unemployed in 2012 will move into employment by 2015.

- To reduce the average time spent on the live register from 21 months to less than 12 months.

- To ensure that employers have access to and are offered suitable candidate to fill full time vacancies and that the proportion of vacancies filled by the Department’s employment services from the Live Register is at least to 40% by 2015.

- To ensure that each person in receipt of a jobseeker payment fulfils their personal responsibility to engage fully with the employment and training supports provided by the State as a pre-condition for recipe of their welfare payments.

  In addition to the initiatives announced under the Pathways to Work programme, the Department also manages a number of schemes providing temporary employment for the long-term unemployed on works and services of value to the community. There are currently 26,000 people participating on Community Employment and Tús. As part of Budget 2013, the Government approved 10,000 new places across CE, TÚS, JobBridge and a new social employment scheme with the Local Authorities.

  The Department also supports long-term unemployed people who create jobs through self-employment. Currently, about 12,000 people are being supported under the Back to Work Allowance scheme and the Short-term Enterprise Allowance scheme.

  Education & Training

  The Department of Social Protection also provides income support for long-term unemployment persons returning to education via Back to Education Allowance and the Springboard Scheme. There are almost 26,000 participants in receipt of Back to Education Allowance in the current academic year. Springboard offers a choice of free courses in higher education from certificate, to degree, to post-graduate level. All courses lead to qualifications in enterprise sectors which are growing and need skilled personnel. Participants on Springboard courses retain their social welfare payments. Sixty-per cent of Springboard participants have been unemployed for more than twelve months and one third of those for more than 24 months. Over 3,500 people graduated from the first round of Springboard programmes, which were put in place in 2011, and an additional 6,000 places were made available for this academic year.

  Policy Impact:

  The additional places being provided on a range of employment and education measures in 2013 will have a direct impact in providing opportunities for people who are currently long-term unemployed.

  While there should be an impact in improving people’s probability of sustainable exit from the Live Register as a result of these measures, the impact is not immediately quantifiable. However, we do have some preliminary evaluation of a significant component of Pathways to Work - the JobBridge Internship Scheme. The findings of the interim evaluation of JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme by Indecon International Economic Consultants, published in October 2012, found that 61% of finishers secured employment within five months of completing their internship. These progression rates compare favourably with European averages in this area and represent very significant progress in a short period of time. Long-term unemployed made up 38% of participants covered by the evaluation.

  More generally, while it is clear that long-term unemployment remains stubbornly high, there was a noticeable reduction in the inflow into long-term duration on the live register in the 2012. For example, the number of people unemployed for between one and two years fell from almost 80,000 in early 2011 to 55,000 at the end of 2012 (which is just under 13% of the total on the Live Register). This downward trend has continued in the first quarter of 2013, so that the size of this group looks set to fall below 50,000 by the end of the year. However, many of those who became unemployed at the height of the jobs crisis in 2009 & 2010 have found it particularly difficult to find employment, with those on the Live Register for more than two years accounting for 32% (135,000) of all live registrants in March 2013. They are now a priority group for activation measures.

Youth Unemployment Data

 156. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the extent to which youth unemployment currently reflected in the live register is likely to be affected by her proposals to address the issue of youth unemployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19403/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The latest published figures show there were some 66,552 young people under 25 years of age signing on the Live Register in March 2013. This represents a 9% decrease from twelve months previously when there were 72,953 young people signing on. One in three young people (35%) on the Live Register had been signing on continuously for more than a year, which is similar to the proportion twelve months previously (36%).

The Government’s policies in relation to youth unemployment are set out in reply to a separate question from the Deputy for answer today (Ref no.19401-13).

The most recently published official forecasts are that the overall unemployment rate is expected to fall to 13% by the end of 2015, which would imply a youth unemployment rate of 25-27% as compared with an average of 30% in 2012. The most recent trends suggest that the outcome is likely to be somewhat more favourable than these projections. It is to be expected that any favourable trends in youth unemployment will be reflected in further reductions in the number of young people on the Live Register.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

 157. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the extent to which previously the self-employed have been facilitated by way of social welfare payment and support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19404/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory).

Self-employed workers may establish eligibility to assistance-based payments such as jobseeker’s allowance. They can apply for the means-tested jobseeker’s allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general, their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year and, in the current climate, account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. As in the case of a non-self-employed unemployed claimant of jobseeker’s allowance, the means of husband/wife, civil partner or cohabitant will be taken into account in deciding on entitlement to a payment.

Recipients of jobseeker’s allowance can, subject to satisfying the requisite qualifying conditions, access a range of employment support measures designed to encourage and support social welfare recipients to reduce their dependency on welfare payments. Supports available include the back to education programmes and back to work schemes. In addition, a fully integrated range of services and supports is available to jobseekers and employers through Intreo, a new service from the Department of Social Protection.


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