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Varadkar plans to raise dole payments depending on how long you've worked

The INOU has welcomed the plan, which the Department of Social Protection told TheJournal.ie is under consideration.

Leo Varadkar before the Social Protection Pre-Budget meeting in Dublin Castle last Friday.
Leo Varadkar before the Social Protection Pre-Budget meeting in Dublin Castle last Friday.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

WORKERS WHO HAVE recently been let go would receive higher dole payments than the long-term unemployed under new proposals.

The Department of Social Protection has confirmed to TheJournal.ie that the plan, which would see some newly unemployed people qualify for €215 a week for the first three months, is under consideration by Minister Leo Varadkar.

Those who qualify under the plan would then receive €200 for the next three months, before reverting to the basic €188 rate after six months’ unemployment.

It is as yet unclear how long workers would need to have paid PRSI contributions before availing of the higher dole rate.

TheJournal.ie understands that Minister Varadkar will meet fellow ministers discuss the proposals, which were flagged in the Fine Gael manifesto prior to this year’s election.

The department dismissed reports in some media outlets this morning that it would mean higher dole for higher earners.

Instead, it is the duration of PRSI payments, rather than their amount that matters, it said.

Dole queue File picture of queues outside the Social Welfare office in Bishops Square near DIT, Dublin. Source: Rollingnews.ie

In a statement, a spokesman for Varadkar said:

“Minister Varadkar indicated at the recent Pre-Budget Forum that the social insurance system should be able to respond more effectively to life’s risks, such as sudden unemployment.

One possible improvement would be to make a stronger link between the rate of Jobseeker’s Benefit paid out in the months immediately after becoming unemployed, and whether the person had paid into the PRSI system prior to that.

He said this would strengthen “contributory principle and reward an established connection to the workforce”, and cushion the drop in household income for newly unemployed people.

Skillset

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed said they welcomed the plan.

“In the past, jobseekers benefit would have been a pay-related payment, but it was abolished in the 80s or early 90s,” spokeswoman Bríd O’Brien told TheJournal.ie.

For many years we looked for it to be reinstated, but in the current climate, linking dole payments to pay wouldn’t really be a runner.

The IONU also called for jobseeker’s benefit to apply for 12 months, rather than nine, for jobseekers who have worked for five years or more.

“People have been very stuck in this crisis, you have people who have worked a long period of time, and then are laid off and find their skillset is out of date.

Also, some don’t make the transition from benefit to jobseeker’s allowance which is means-tested, and it’s very hard to access supports when that happens.

“What’s also of serious concern is widespread poverty levels, and what we need to see is an increase in the basic rate of jobseeker’s payment from €188.”

MacGill Summer School

Varadkar’s new proposals is part of the government’s plan to ‘make work pay’ by ensuring people benefit from their PRSI contributions if they are laid off.

Last week he told the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal that he was examining plans to link social welfare rates to either inflation or to average earnings.

There have been no plans announced to change the controversial cut in the jobseeker’s allowance for people under the age of 26.

The maximum rate a person between the age of 18 and 24 can claim is €100 while a person aged 25 can claim a maximum of €144.

Read:  Poll: Should the government raise the minimum wage by 10 cent?

Read: Varadkar proposes tying welfare payments to inflation

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