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Seed Project Steering Group

Open CommuniquĂŠ Position Paper

Open CommuniquÊ Position Paper Challenges and Suggested Recommendations towards Employment of SEED Participants SEED Project Steering Group March 2014 Prepared by Mark McCollum, on behalf of the Steering Group Brief Conversations on‌ Social Protection As part of the SEED Project a series of conversations took place with and between project participants. The primary topic of discussion being how the participants viewed, perceived and experienced the social welfare system.

These informal discussions in no way were empirical or scientific; they simply were a forum for the participants to articulate frankly their experiences of engaging with the structures of the social protections system, and share the feelings these engagements engendered in them through constructive discourse.

A number of personal experiences of interactions with Social Protection were related; some negative, some positive, but the prevailing sense which permeated the conversations was concerns around understanding the perceived complexities of the social protection/social welfare system combined with a lack of understanding of the mechanics of the systems. The main sentiment expressed was a genuine feeling of fear and apprehension that was paralysing the participants from progressing and entering the labour market. The participants unanimously endorsed the fact that they were gaining significantly at a personal level from actively engaging with the SEED project, there was reported increases in self confidence, self esteem and many felt imbued with a sense of purpose and renewed drive and motivation.

However, the counterpoint to this was that there was a sense of apprehension and trepidation that if they were to take up a new position even on a part-time basis that this would impact negatively on the benefits both primary and secondary they were currently receiving from Social Protection.

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Seed Project Steering Group

Open Communiqué Position Paper

A typical expression of this feeling can be surmised in the quote “I feel fine now…, but what happens if I relapse in a few months time and have to try and claim again, I may not get my disability allowance back, I can’t risk all that, its not worth it” Recommendation: Although a lot of concern was expressed, there was also constructive recommendations suggested that might go some way to allaying the fears. The suggestion was mooted that a ‘safety net’ be put in place to ease the anxiety of ‘relapse’, that benefits be partially retained for a ‘settling in period’ similar to The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme for those people in receipt of benefits who become self employed, and retain a percentage of their benefits for a 2 year period. Whilst being aware of the constraints being imposed on the Department of Social Protection, if this model could be piloted and tested along with a more streamlined method of dissemination of information it would go a long way to dispel the reservations and concerns. We Want to Work!!! The overwhelming sense was that people truly wanted to work and contribute fully to society, work was viewed as being and integral part of what and who they are; it provides people with a purpose. However, their being unemployed and having a disability sapped peoples confidence and self worth, this coupled with the lack of disposable income contributed to isolation and alienation. The SEED project was applauded for its inclusive nature which was viewed as extremely positive and life affirming, but the anxiety of loosing benefits through taking a job was real. But if the suggestion around supported Back to Work Allowances could be extended to people in receipt of disability or illness benefits could be implemented this would go some considerable way to allaying these fears.

Overall the dialogue and process was positive, nothing was insurmountable, fears can be addressed, and although there appeared to be perceived deficits in terms of information relating to benefits and entitlements and in particular how to access up to date valid and reliable sources of information, it was felt that this matter could be dealt with.

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Open communique position paper seed 2014