Fianna Fáil’s Social Protection Spokesperson, Willie O’Dea TD has said that the entire social protection system needs to re-focus itself on providing opportunities rather than putting barriers in front of people.

“Too many of the schemes provided by the Department are overly bureaucratic and burdensome.”

“To my mind, every scheme that the DSP offers to those who are unemployed must have, as one of its primary outcomes, an objective of moving people into further education, training and ultimately paid employment.”

“If this isn’t the case, then good social policy isn’t being practised,” said O’Dea.

“Many of the schemes currently constituted don’t operate in such a way. Take the Back to Education Allowance scheme. It should be a scheme that empowers people who never had the chance to attend higher education. However, the barriers that are put in front of people don’t make societal sense.”

“Recently, lone-parent applicants have been refused access to this scheme because their children are aged seven or older. What sense does this make? To me, it’s a nonsensical situation that doesn’t meet the primary objective of moving people on from benefits towards paid employment.”

“Making work pay, and ensuring that those in receipt of benefits feel the benefit of going back to work is crucial. For too many, the welfare cliff is too steep, and the pressure of maintaining family income levels forces many to resist taking on employment or going back to education. The welfare system needs to recognise this and ensure that those transitioning from benefits to paid-employment or education are supported through a sliding payments scheme.”

“The guidelines, and regulations, surrounding social protection schemes need to reflect the reality of life for people, and be flexible enough to fulfil the common good objective of social policy,” concluded O’Dea.