Galway East Deputy Michael Kitt has welcomed the Minister for Social Protection’s decision to address an anomaly in job seeker supports for firemen who work on a part-time basis.
Under current rules, job seekers who work as part-time fighters are entitled to job-seekers benefit while on a small retainer for on-call work. This requires them to be within a short distance from the fire station, creating difficulties in them meeting the statutory requirements for jobseekers benefit.
Following pressure from Deputy Kitt and colleagues in Fianna Fáil, Minister Joan Burton has now agreed to insert a clause in the new social welfare bill addressing the problem.
Raising the matter with Minister Burton this week, Deputy Kitt said part-time fire-fighters must be supported while they make personal sacrifices on behalf of their communities.
“These fire-fighters are in a particularly unusual circumstance. They work for their communities, giving up their time to be ready at a moment’s notice to respond to an emergency. As they only receive a nominal retainer to do this work, they are entitled to job seekers benefit. But due to the nature of their community work, many firemen have experienced difficulties in receiving their entitlements,” explained Deputy Kitt.
“These fire-fighters are required to be no further than 1.5 miles, or 5 minutes, from the fire station while on-call. This creates difficulties in meeting the statutory requirements for job seekers benefit, requiring them to prove that they are available for work and actively seeking work at all times.
“I have been lobbying the Minister for some time to address this problem, so that part-time fire-fighters are supported in continuing to provide a vital service to our communities. I am delighted that the Minister has now agreed to insert a clause in the social welfare bill recognising the special circumstances of this group of community workers. It will come as a relief to firemen, particularly those attached to small stations in rural communities, who have experienced difficulties and delays in receiving the State support they are entitled to.”