CREED SLAMS SINN FEIN FOR INSULTING LONG TERM UNEMPLOYED

Cork North West T.D. Michael Creed has rejected a Sinn Fein Private members motion calling on the Government to abandon the Gateway scheme. Speaking during the debate Deputy Creed said:

“It is (the Dáil motion) gratuitously insulting to people who are unemployed and to anyone who participates in Gateway, a Tús scheme, a CE scheme or JobBridge. It is based on a flawed political miscalculation in that Sinn Féin believes a cohort of those unfortunate people, who find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own, do not want to work. I can tell Sinn Féin that in my political experience in my constituency office, as late as my clinics last Monday night, I had people who want to stay longer on schemes and who want to get onto schemes. I have had conversations with supervisors who have constructive suggestions to make about how to improve schemes. However, this motion is gratuitously insulting to communities who organise schemes, to local authorities who will provide a range of opportunities to participants on schemes, but it is insulting most of all to the more than 180,000 people who are long-term unemployed, for whom Sinn Féin Members allege to care but to whom, by virtue of their motion, they are giving a slap in the face”.

“The motion refers to the portion of the unemployed accounted for by those who are long-term unemployed having increased from 55% to 61%. What is Sinn Féin’s solution to this issue? Deputy Clare Daly said that people need a job if they are to get back to work. Of course they need a job. However, it is clearly established that the prospects of getting a full-time job are significantly diminished the longer a person is unemployed. That is what labour activation programmes seek to address. It is about giving people a pathway back to work by offering opportunities to upskill and retrain. If Members opposite were offering a constructive criticism of the schemes in terms of their training input, for example, there might be something to debate. However, this pejorative language of “frog-marching”, “forced labour” and “hard labour” is gratuitously insulting to those people who want to participate in the schemes and see them not as a hard labour, but as an avenue back to work”.

“Sinn Féin needs to get real. I urge Members opposite to get in touch with the constituencies where unemployment is a serious issue and with the communities that are offering these people some hope of getting back into the workforce. Our economic recovery is fragile. Any local social welfare officer will say that employers are nervous but are gradually putting their toes back in the water. These employers are saying they do not have sufficient confidence to take on a full-time employee, but they can offer two or three days work per week. Participants who work for 19.5 hours per week under the Gateway, Tús or community employment schemes will receive an incentive to do so and can take up opportunities elsewhere on the back of the experience they gain”.

“In an ideal world, we would have work for everybody and there would be no need to debate these issues. Unfortunately, ours is a far from ideal world and we cannot adopt the head in the sand, all or nothing approach of Deputy Clare Daly or Sinn Féin. We are giving participants an additional €20 per week. I wish we were in a position to give an extra €50 or €100, but we simply cannot afford it. Who would pay the taxes to support that increased allocation? Employers are beginning to get up off their knees and offer people opportunities, but Deputies opposite want to nail those people to a lifetime on social welfare. It is a betrayal like none I have ever seen in respect of people who are unemployed, and it is coming from a party that purports to articulate the needs of marginalised people. In previous Opposition motions I have generally found elements that I would like, in my heart of hearts, to support. In this instance, however, there is not a single shred of content that offers anything to the people it is claiming to represent but further long-term unemployment. The bottom line is that we need labour activation measures to improve the employability of people seeking work”.

“I will conclude by offering a constructive criticism, which I hope the Minister, Deputy Phil Hogan, will convey to his colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Richard Bruton. There is a proliferation of schemes, including Tús, community employment schemes and Gateway, which, because they were introduced at short notice, feature a degree of overlap and inadequate co-ordination. I have spoken to supervisors who are crisscrossing County Cork, with one supervising a single Tús worker on a GAA pitch, for example, and another coming onto the same pitch separately to supervise three Tús workers or community employment scheme workers. We need to extract from the current pool of supervisors people who will assume an oversight role in terms of the implementation and co-ordination of scarce resources. We are putting €19 million into Gateway. I wish we could allocate €90 million, but that is not possible. This is a labour activation measure with significant merit. As I said at the outset, the content of this motion from Sinn Féin is gratuitously insulting to long-term unemployed people and to participants in these schemes the length and breadth of the country”.

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SUPPORTS NEEDED TO HELP STAY AT HOME PARENTS RETURN TO WORKPLACE

Cork North West TD, Michael Creed has called for measures to be taken to assist parents, who have stayed in the home to raise their children, return to the workplace.  Deputy Creed made particular reference to parents who are not entitled to the supports available to those on the live register.  Speaking in the Dáil during a special topical issues debate on the matter, Deputy Creed said:

 

“I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise the matter of parents who wish to return to the workforce after a period in the home raising children. They are not provided with similar rights and entitlements to those on the live register in terms of education and training initiatives and other labour market activation mechanisms. Although the proposal is couched in gender-neutral terms, in most cases we are talking about women who, mostly for reasons to do with child-rearing, opt out of the labour force for a number of years. As they are not in receipt of a qualifying payment, they are not entitled to participate in many of the labour market activation programmes available through the Department of Social Protection or its agencies”.

 

 

 “I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O’Dowd, and I appreciate that not every Cabinet Minister can be in attendance for these debates. However, I had hoped the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, would attend because she is interested in these matters. In recent days, she celebrated International Women’s Day. It is not often I find myself comfortable in the company of the National Women’s Council of Ireland and SIPTU but it must be acknowledged on such occasions. The two bodies combined to produce a very interesting paper called Careless to Careful Activation. It deals with a range of issues that arise on the basis that women do not present a homogenous group in terms of labour market activation measures. Women who have reared children have different requirements from those who are at the pre-child-rearing stage”.

 

 

 “The challenge for the Minister is whether it is possible to have a gender perspective on labour market activation and to move away from what appears to be a gender-stereotypical approach that one size fits all in terms of labour market activation. I acknowledge it is a lot to ask but, from the point of view of the State, there is a danger of locking out a large cohort of women, many of whom have acquired skill sets at the expense of the State that are in danger of being lost forever. This will have an impact on employment rates in the economy and contribute to household poverty”.

 

 

 “On the other side, women in receipt of qualifying payments are, in some cases, harangued and harassed by the Department of Social Protection to participate in labour market activation measures. In some contexts, it places extraordinary pressure on them, including the obligation to participate in training or courses and, subsequently, low-paid employment, as well as leaving them with the onerous task of domestic, child-rearing and care responsibilities. While we can understand the argument that scarce resources must be allocated in a targeted manner, under the current arrangements we are in many instances reaping the worst of both worlds. A cohort of women wish to participate in activation measures and to avail of the initiatives tailored to that purpose by the State, while another cohort of women, by virtue of the fact they are in receipt of payments, are being hunted and obliged to participate in the labour market activation processes. In many instances, labour market activation processes do not subsequently lead to productive engagement in the labour market”.

 

 

“Does the Department of Social Protection, through its many agencies, have the capacity for a gender perspective on labour market activation that designs tailor-made solutions to individual clients? These will not be exclusively women, but in many cases women currently not in receipt of social welfare qualifying payments are locked out of the benefits of activation measures”.

 

 

“The publication I referred to, a joint effort between SIPTU and the National Women’s Council of Ireland, addresses many of the issues. The only way to come up with a realistic solution is to allow greater autonomy and flexibility to those who decide who participates. Many participants are unwilling and many willing participants are locked out of these arrangements”.

SUPPORTS NEEDED TO HELP STAY AT HOME PARENTS RETURN TO WORKPLACE

Cork North West TD, Michael Creed has called for measures to be taken to assist parents, who have stayed in the home to raise their children, return to the workplace.  Deputy Creed made particular reference to parents who are not entitled to the supports available to those on the live register.  Speaking in the Dáil during a special topical issues debate on the matter, Deputy Creed said:

 

“I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise the matter of parents who wish to return to the workforce after a period in the home raising children. They are not provided with similar rights and entitlements to those on the live register in terms of education and training initiatives and other labour market activation mechanisms. Although the proposal is couched in gender-neutral terms, in most cases we are talking about women who, mostly for reasons to do with child-rearing, opt out of the labour force for a number of years. As they are not in receipt of a qualifying payment, they are not entitled to participate in many of the labour market activation programmes available through the Department of Social Protection or its agencies”.

 

 

 “I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O’Dowd, and I appreciate that not every Cabinet Minister can be in attendance for these debates. However, I had hoped the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, would attend because she is interested in these matters. In recent days, she celebrated International Women’s Day. It is not often I find myself comfortable in the company of the National Women’s Council of Ireland and SIPTU but it must be acknowledged on such occasions. The two bodies combined to produce a very interesting paper called Careless to Careful Activation. It deals with a range of issues that arise on the basis that women do not present a homogenous group in terms of labour market activation measures. Women who have reared children have different requirements from those who are at the pre-child-rearing stage”.

 

 

 “The challenge for the Minister is whether it is possible to have a gender perspective on labour market activation and to move away from what appears to be a gender-stereotypical approach that one size fits all in terms of labour market activation. I acknowledge it is a lot to ask but, from the point of view of the State, there is a danger of locking out a large cohort of women, many of whom have acquired skill sets at the expense of the State that are in danger of being lost forever. This will have an impact on employment rates in the economy and contribute to household poverty”.

 

 

 “On the other side, women in receipt of qualifying payments are, in some cases, harangued and harassed by the Department of Social Protection to participate in labour market activation measures. In some contexts, it places extraordinary pressure on them, including the obligation to participate in training or courses and, subsequently, low-paid employment, as well as leaving them with the onerous task of domestic, child-rearing and care responsibilities. While we can understand the argument that scarce resources must be allocated in a targeted manner, under the current arrangements we are in many instances reaping the worst of both worlds. A cohort of women wish to participate in activation measures and to avail of the initiatives tailored to that purpose by the State, while another cohort of women, by virtue of the fact they are in receipt of payments, are being hunted and obliged to participate in the labour market activation processes. In many instances, labour market activation processes do not subsequently lead to productive engagement in the labour market”.

 

 

“Does the Department of Social Protection, through its many agencies, have the capacity for a gender perspective on labour market activation that designs tailor-made solutions to individual clients? These will not be exclusively women, but in many cases women currently not in receipt of social welfare qualifying payments are locked out of the benefits of activation measures”.

 

 

“The publication I referred to, a joint effort between SIPTU and the National Women’s Council of Ireland, addresses many of the issues. The only way to come up with a realistic solution is to allow greater autonomy and flexibility to those who decide who participates. Many participants are unwilling and many willing participants are locked out of these arrangements”.

CHILD BENEFIT SHOULD BE LINKED TO SCHOOL ATTENDANCE WITHIN THIS STATE – CREED.

RUMOURED €10 REDUCTION ALARMING CALLING UNIVERSALITY INTO QUESTION

Cork North West, Fine Gael TD, has expressed his concern at rumours circulating of a €10 reduction in child benefit and has called for an end to universal payment and the linking of child benefit payment to school attendance in a move which would ensure that benefit payments are not leaving the state while simultaneously alleviating the problem of truancy in schools. Commenting on the proposal which he recently put to the Minster for Social Protection, Deputy Creed said:

 

“I have asked the Minister her views on linking Child benefit payment to school attendance within the State and to consider implementing such a condition.  The Minister has responded by stating that there are no plans to introduce a condition in Ireland related to school attendance beyond that which currently exists for those aged 16 and 17.  Commenting on the possible impact my proposal would have on truancy levels the Minister deferred to the Minister for Education and the Minister for Children.  I am disappointed with her response”.

 

“I believe the Government has to look across Departments for solutions to a range of problems be they financial or social.  There is an opportunity to ensure that school attendance is maximised by penalising truancy with a reduction or suspension to child benefit for serial offenders.  Government must be flexible and open minded when presented with suggestions and not be blinkered and short-sighted in terms of Departmental or legislative constraints.  I understand the legal dilemma whereby the EU’s social security systems are required to be co-ordinated and the payment of benefits must apply to all EU citizens equally regardless of which state they work in, therefore ensuring Irish citizens working in other EU member states benefit equally from the host countries system an vice versa.  I am proposing a little financial engineering which will see the current regime remain up to school going age and then the child benefit payment switches to a school attendance payment”.

 

Commenting on reports that child benefit is to be cut by €10 in next months budget. Deputy Creed said;

 

“I acknowledge that no final budgetary decision have been taken as of yet and we are dealing with pure speculation, however I am alarmed that there is a possibility of child benefit being cut by as much as €10.  This situation highlights the inequality of the current universal system which is unsustainable and unfair.  I note this morning groups such as Barnardos and others, who support the universal nature of the payment, expressing their concerns. Scarce resources need to be targeted at areas where they are most needed and a blind adherence to the principle of retaining child benefit as a universal payment is of another era”.

 

“The case has been made, that the implementation of a means test is too expensive to administer.  However in the absence of such a mechanism it is important that if the €10 cut is to proceed then the Government should compensate those on Social welfare by an equivalent increase in child dependent allowance or in the family income supplement”.