Averil Responds To Jobseekers Allowance Cutback

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Fianna Fáil is strongly opposed to this section of the legislation. While I acknowledge changes were introduced under the previous Government for a reduced rate of payment for 18 and 19-year olds, there was a good rationale for that because it is not right that someone would go straight from school onto the dole. Unfortunately, there is a history in many areas of intergenerational dependence on social welfare and the rationale behind that change was to break this cycle and to give young people an incentive to take up training and educational opportunities and to make sure they get out there and have the incentive to work. However, there is a hell of a difference between that and now paying 25-year olds €100 per week. In many cases, such young people not only have an undergraduate degree but also have masters level qualifications. Consequently, it does not add up for the Government to suggest such people will receive a higher rate of payment if they undergo a back to education course, a FÁS course or some other lower level of educational or training course. These are young people who have educational qualifications and who would grab a job with both hands, if they could get one.

However, the reality for many young graduates is that jobs simply are not available and this is the reason there is such a shockingly high rate of youth unemployment. Moreover, the youth unemployment rate of 30% does not capture those who have left the country because of the lack of opportunities for them here. It simply refers to the young people who remain here and, consequently, the true figure is far higher. I have no doubt that including 25 and 26-year olds in this cut is not an activation measure and it is deeply disingenuous to try to sell it as such. It is a cut and an attempt to make savings from a particularly vulnerable generation and ultimately, all it will be is an incentive to emigrate because people cannot live on €100 per week.

Jobseeker’s allowance is only payable to those who have low income in the first place. It is a means-tested scheme and such people will not qualify for it if there is a decent level of parental income in the household and if they are living at home. They will only qualify if they are living as part of a low-income family or if they are supporting themselves. I refer to people who live in families that cannot afford to look after their financial needs and which in many cases struggled to get the young person through college and to meet all the costs of education. It is deeply unfair for someone in that situation to come out at the other end only to be denied financial support and, consequently, I urge the Minister to rethink this measure, particularly at the higher end of this age bracket.

There are different categories of young people and Senator van Turnhout mentioned that for some,training might well be appropriate. However, the measure that has been introduced for such a wide group of people is too crude. Some people within that age cohort are early school leavers who would benefit from taking part in a relatively basic educational course or from availing of the back to education scheme to acquire a college qualification and so on. However, others at the far end are highly educated and certainly the last thing they need after four, five or in some cases six years in college is more education. What they need is a job.

Moreover, there are not enough places on the education side to cater for those who have educational needs and there are not enough places on the training side for those who have the requisite education but not training. The Government has referred repeatedly to the youth guarantee, which all Members strongly support. However, the necessary resources are not being put into backing it up and ensuring that every young person is offered an education, training or work placement that is relevant to that young person, which recognises the qualifications and skill levels he or she already has and gives such people something that will make them more job ready and help them to gain paid employment. This is the big gap in this regard, as such a guarantee is not in place. Nowhere near enough places are being offered for the full age cohort, in which there are more than 66,000 people, as the number of places available is only a fraction of that number.

While this measure is extremely unfair, in the post-budget analysis, media coverage and so on, it appears in large part to have passed by quite quickly, as perhaps some of the media analysts and others who were commenting on it do not understand the impact it has. However, all the different groups that appeared before the Joint Committee on Social Protection, including the Union of Students in Ireland, USI, and the National Youth Council of Ireland have pointed out the really severe impact this will have on young people. It does not add up from an economic point of view either because while the State has spent and invested in getting a top-class education for young people and getting them to degree level, ultimately, all they are being handed is a one-way ticket to Canada, Australia or someone else. They are being told to go off there for a few years because the State wishes to disincentivise them in respect of giving them the opportunity to seek employment here. Many young people have made the point to me that the reality for people from the country in particular is that to get a job, they are obliged to come to Dublin to seek work. How on earth is someone supposed to survive in Dublin and actually find a job on €100 per week given the cost of rent and everything else? This simply takes that opportunity out of their hands altogether and is forcing them towards the airport instead. This measure is incredibly unfair and it is for that reason Fianna Fáil is opposing it.

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