Dáil debates

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

3:00 am

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)

I thank the Minister for his reply. The only part of the question not answered was on whether he proposes to increase the amount of the family income supplement. Many people consider that, through FIS, the State subsidises employers who pay low wages while others consider it a support for people on low wages. Does the Minister accept that having a job in itself is not a guarantee that one lives in a poverty-free household? Approximately 14% of households in poverty are headed by people in low-paid employment. Therefore, it is imperative schemes such as this are taken up.

The Minister can assist the working poor by increasing the thresholds of the family income supplement and I again ask him to do so. Did the Minister examine the eligibility criteria? It is part of the question. One of my constituents job-shares and works 35 hours over two weeks. She receives €530 per month but she is short three hours' work per week to qualify for FIS, which requires 19 hours work per week. She pays €50 per week for child care. Does the Minister accept that flexibility could be introduced for people such as this? The woman also pays for fuel, food, mortgage, maintenance on the house and transport to and from work. She does not have much money for herself and her family.

The Minister said that take-up of the scheme is extremely low. I welcome the higher take-up in Dublin detailed by the Minister in his reply. Many people consider we have two approaches to this matter. The Department chases those who owe it money from welfare over-payments, and rightly so, but the same energy is not used to chase those owed money.

Many people in low-income jobs come from low educational backgrounds. Perhaps part of the reason for low take-up of the scheme is that people are not aware of it. As well as advertising the scheme, a proactive campaign by the Department is also necessary. Perhaps the Department will telephone those workplaces where people are on low incomes and inform the wages clerk or the workers that the money is available.

In many cases people are frightened to take up FIS because they fear they may upset their employers or that they will lose a different benefit. With publicising the scheme, all those fears, imagined or otherwise, must be addressed.


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