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Minister Joan Burton TD Minister for Social Protection Dear friends, As we gather here in Killarney, the recovery is taking hold and more than 1,000 people a week are returning to work. Figures released this week by the Central Statistics Office show an increase of 58,000 in the number of people employed over the last year. This is hugely encouraging as we prepare to successfully exit the bailout - and shows the work that Labour has done to fix the crisis we inherited is paying off. The unemployment rate reduced from 13.6% to 12.8% in the last quarter the sixth consecutive fall. So we are making steady progress. But there are still far too many people out of work, and that’s where we as the Labour Party come in. We have always been the party of work, and so we know that economic recovery by itself is not enough.It must be accompanied by full employment and fair wages – which have to be our key goals as we build the post-recovery Ireland. These goals will ensure we have a people-centred recovery rather than resorting to the banker-led, trickle-down con-job that served as economic strategy under the previous administration and led Ireland to the brink of collapse. Full employment is how we leave austerity in the distant past. It’s how we increase tax revenue, build a viable social insurance system, reduce welfare expenditure and create room for new investment in essential services. We all have a key role to play in meeting those objectives. As we move into the next phase of recovery, Labour in Government will shape the policies that put workers and their families first – and this weekend, I would love to hear your ideas on the type of policies we should implement. In the meantime, in Social Protection, I’m focusing on two key objectives – transforming the way the Department helps jobseekers, and implementing the Youth Guarantee. Remember the depressing dole offices of old where you got a payment and nothing else? I am ensuring they are a thing of the past by rolling out Intreo Centres, the new-style social welfare one-stop shops where jobseekers get income and employment supports in the one place. As for the Youth Guarantee, during Ireland’s EU presidency, I oversaw agreement among the member states on this vital initiative. The idea behind the Guarantee is that young people under 25 should receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. While it will be introduced on a phased basis in Ireland and other member states facing severe financial constraints, we are now working on a plan to rollout the Guarantee in 2014 and secure as much EU funding as possible for it. The Guarantee, combined with a significant policy shift from income to employment supports, will provide much more opportunities for young jobseekers. This is what Labour is all about – helping people back to work. I look forward to meeting you this weekend.
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MORE FUNDING TO HELP FAMILIES IN WORK ■ The Department doesn’t just support people when they are out of work. ■ We support them to stay in work. ■ That is a point that critics of the welfare system often miss. ■ Last year, the Department spent €224 million on Family Income Supplement – a weekly tax-free top-up payment for workers on low pay with children. ■ Next year, we will spend more than €280 million – despite having to make savings in the overall welfare budget. ■ At present, more than 40,000 working families with more than 90,000 children benefit from the scheme. ■ FIS makes the crucial difference for them in terms of being better off in work and building a more secure future for their families.
JOBSPLUS AND EMPLOYER SUPPORTS ■ We help employers too and JobsPlus is one of the best examples. ■ It incentivises employers to hire people who have been long-term unemployed, so it’s a win-win for businesses and for jobseekers. ■ Through the scheme, the State pays approximately €1 in €4 of the typical cost of hiring someone who has been on the Live Register for 12 months or more. ■ The scheme was launched in July, and already, more than 1,000 recruitments have been approved. ■ See www.jobsplus.ie
MOVING TOWARDS A LIVING WAGE TACKLING WELFARE FRAUD ■ Low wages and zero-hour contracts are now growing features of the modern work environment.
■ I have always championed the welfare system as a safety net for those who need it most.
■ This was why we immediately restored the Minimum Wage upon entering Government.
■ However, it’s precisely because the State’s limited resources should go to those most in need that we need to prevent welfare fraud.
■ It is also why I’ve suggested the possibility of introducing a Living Wage in the future. ■ A Living Wage would be higher than the Minimum Wage, and would provide the income necessary to meet basic needs, including housing and healthcare, on top of items such as food and heating. ■ Research in London, which has a voluntary Living Wage, has shown that it works for employers, employees and the Exchequer. ■ I believe we should consider a gradual phasing-in of a Living Wage - like London, it could begin on a voluntary basis. ■ I have little doubt it would quickly find broad social agreement.
Joan Burton TD
Dáil Éireann Leinster House Dublin 2
■ I have significantly beefed up the Department’s powers to tackle fraud. ■ For example, since June 2012, Department inspectors have enhanced powers to tackle welfare tourism – they can question people at ports and airports whom they believe are entering the country to claim welfare payments fraudulently. ■ Such investigations have already resulted in more than 100 detections of welfare tourism, with payments stopped, over €1.3m saved, and a number of cases prosecuted in the courts.
Phone: 618 4006 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.joanburton.ie