Some 1,275 people have had their benefit cut because they failed to take up “reasonable” training courses or job offers.
The Department of Social Protection introduced a measure last April which would allow officials to cut weekly jobseeker payments by up to €44 for people who refuse to take up job interviews or offers, or training places.
The level of the cut depends on the size of the allowance being claimed. The penalty only applies to an individual’s jobseeker payments.
Under previous legislation, the Government could suspend a jobseeker’s benefit in its entirety rather than the current reduction of welfare rates. However, such an approach was rarely taken.
The number of people hit by the cuts has been on the increase in recent months, with 1,275 having been cut to date.
Some 500 people had their jobseeker’s benefit reduced between January and June compared with 372 in all of last year.
The ‘work for dole’ scheme is aimed at encouraging people to come off benefits and engage in training and work placements to get them off the dole and back into the workforce.
Bríd O’Brien, of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, said any reduction should only be as a last resort. She also pointed out that the crucial issue not being addressed was the lack of quality education training places.
“For us, what the big issue really is, and the feedback we get from both unemployed people and officials working on the ground is there is a lack of places, particularly quality education training places which would allow people to re-skill and re-educate themselves to find work,” she said.
Ms O’Brien pointed out that inherent flaws within the system were also excluding people from taking up training places.
“One of the issues that has been arising over the past while is that people are finding if they have an existing qualification, that that’s being used to exclude them from a course that might be very different. So we feel that it is the lack of places that is the big issue. There are a lot more people that are looking to find work, to get on a course, than there are places currently.”
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