Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea has criticised the Government’s decision to withhold dole payments from people who refuse to take part in its Gateway scheme as “populist rhetoric” that will make little positive difference in tackling joblessness.  According to newspaper reports, four people have had their payments stopped because they have decided not to participate in the programme.

“This exploitative scheme is clearly a tool to massage the Live Register figures.  It forces people on the dole to work almost 20 hours a week for an extra €20 in their social welfare payment, while allowing the Government to engage in a bit of populist kick-the-unemployed rhetoric.  This will make little positive difference in tackling joblessness.  In many cases, people’s skills or education are not taken into account; instead they are made work for local authorities on things like village enhancement schemes and landscaping”, commented Deputy O’Dea.

“Gateway offers little more than the basic Jobseeker’s Allowance payment, and it actually undermines the existing pay and terms and conditions for staff already employed in these sectors.  This is another Government job activation programme set up to make the Live Register numbers look better than they really are.

“People who refuse to take part in this scheme are being punished for not assisting Minister Burton in trying to mask the true figures.  If this work is necessary, the Government should be incentivising investment in the sector and people should be paid a living wage to carry it out, rather than being insulted with a €20 per week token gesture”.