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TheJournal.ie’s progress report for the Government: Social welfare

Has Joan Burton kept the government’s promises of reversing cuts while keeping all baseline social welfare rates unchanged?

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Social welfare

1) WHAT THEY SAID DURING THE 2011 ELECTION CAMPAIGN

  • Labour’s manifesto promised a ‘ major crackdown on welfare fraud, so that the social protection system is fair and transparent’.
  • The party pledged to cut down on bureaucracy by replacing multiple means tests with a single unified means test
  • Labour promised root and branch efficiency reforms to eliminate poverty traps, speed up social protection claims, and save money
  • The Labour manifesto also had a key focus on eliminating poverty. It also pledged to reverse the cut in minimum wage implemented by the previous government
  • Fine Gael pledged to introduce a new ‘one stop shop’ for welfare and job training and information.
  • FG’s manifesto focused on ‘Welfare to Work’ reforms, such as cutting benefits to recipients who refused offers of training or work, and introducing a ‘more meaningful schedule of engagement’ with Jobseekers.
  • The party promised to maintain and expand Community Employment schemes

2) WHAT THEY PROMISED IN THE PROGRAMME FOR GOVERNMENT

  • The parties pledged to maintain all social welfare payment rates
  • They also committed to reversing the then-recent cut in the minimum wage
  • The Programme stated that the elimination of poverty would be an objective of the Government. It singled out child poverty and said a new area-based approached to end child poverty would be enacted. It also promised to tackle fuel poverty
  • The Programme highlighted a  “zero tolerance approach” to welfare fraud
  • It promised to tightly regulate money lenders and debt collectors

3) PROGRESS – OR LACK THEREOF – IN FIRST YEAR OF GOVERNMENT

  • Basic weekly social welfare rates have been maintained.
  • An attempt to cut disability allowances for young people was reversed days after it was announced in December’s Budget.
  • The new Pathways to Work scheme unveiled last month will create one-stop-shops at social welfare offices where jobseekers can access their entitlements and get training and support. Claimants will also have to sign a rights and responsibilities contract and commit to a progression plan with the Department of Social Protection.
  • The government last month claimed it had saved €645 million through fraud prevention measures across the Department of Social Protection after it reviewed over 980,000 individual claims for social welfare payment.
  • JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme, was launched in June. Last month the government said 5,000 people have started internships so far.
  • The government restored the minimum wage to €8.65 in July.
  • Cuts to Community Employment Schemes were delayed – but may be coming this this month, Joan Burton has said.
  • JobSeeker’s Allowance for someone working part-time is now calculated on a five-day week rather than a six-day week which the government has said will be a greater incentive for part-time workers to return to full employment as it reduces the amount of benefit the jobseekers receive.

Our full report: How did the government do in its first year? This is how.

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