Seanad debates

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Social Welfare (Covid-19) (Amendment) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages


1:00 pm

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)

I am sorry but I forgot to answer one of Senator Ruane's previous questions. The working family payment continues to be paid in conjunction with the Covid-19 provisions. A date and time had to be picked if a person was in employment on or after 13 March, whether employed or self-employed, and the Covid-19 payment was then made.

I note the Senator's comments on getting people back to education. I do not know how that can be sorted. I will speak to my officials about it and I take the point she makes. People do not want to be categorised as the long-term unemployed. The Minister with responsibility for higher education, research, innovation and science, Deputy Simon Harris, and I announced a €200 million package as part of the Government's July stimulus package, and that is all about getting people back to work. I take the Senator's point that this is not about having any old job but rather having a job that somebody wants to do. Many people want to stay in the arts sector, for example, and they might not want to move to other areas. It is understandable.

We will expand the use of local employment services, including job clubs and JobPath. We will increase the number of employment service staff within the Department and expand the youth employment support scheme to increase the number of places and widen the eligibility criteria so more people can avail of work placement. We will expand JobsPlus so there will be a subsidy for employers of either €7,500 or €10,000 to take somebody from the live register. We will increase the age from 25 to 30, as per the EU definition of youth age, which is now 29.

We are also providing training grant schemes, back-to-enterprise allowances and a back-to-education allowance. We will increase the number of places on community employment schemes. I know the Leas-Chathaoirleach mentioned those earlier. They play a very important role. We will increase the number of places for Tús and we discussed the employment support grant earlier. On top of that, there will be 80,000 places for the likes of apprenticeships and courses in institutes of further education split between my Department and the Department with responsibility for higher education, research, innovation and science. There will be 45,000 places offered by one Department, with 35,000 places offered by the other Department.

I know the amendment seeks a report but the measure of our success will be how many people we get back to work.It is about getting them the right skills and jobs. It is also about getting them jobs they want and enjoy as well. I take on board the Senators' points.


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