Anti-poverty network attacks ‘social employment’ proposal

THE European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) is among a number of groups which have strongly criticised proposals from Minster for Social Protection Eamon O Cuív to implement a ‘social employment’ scheme which would commit up to 10,000 job seekers to 20 hours community work or face having their unemployment benefits cut.

EAPN Irish Network co-ordinator Aiden Lloyd said the proposals amounted to an attempt to implement an “incomplete and regressive” policy which would bring “into question the very concept of work and the important psychological and material part it plays in people’s lives”.

“People should only be enticed to participate in measures that lead to jobs. If those jobs are not there, which they are currently not, then they need to be created.”

In a response on the EAPN blog, the proposals were criticised by Siobhán O’Connor of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI). She said she was deeply concerned by the proposals: “They amount to little more than an effort to demonise the unemployed and use them to plug holes left by the withdrawal of funding and supports in local communities.”

However, there was a guarded welcome for the proposals from Labour’s social protection spokes- woman Roisín Shortall.

However, she said it was important that the proposed scheme was structured in such a way as to encourage the return of the participants into the workforce proper.

“These should not be seen as permanent positions, but rather as a stepping stone back to full employment,” she added.

The issue of garda vetting of those working with children through the proposed scheme was raised by Fine Gael’s Charlie Flanagan.

Under the proposals, to be piloted over the next four months, jobseekers will be employed on a range of projects such as the provision of childcare, working with sports clubs and on environmental initiatives.

Those who take up this work would be paid about €210 for a 19.5-hour week. According to the Department for Social Protection those put on a scheme and who failed to turn up for social employment or missed scheduled hours would lose social welfare payments.

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