The changes proposed in the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 are long overdue. As Minister O’Cuiv highlighted last month in Galway, one of the big things that genuinely unemployed people complain about is forced inactivity. The Minister promised he would tackle this problem quickly, having for many years argued that enforced idleness was not a great policy.
The Government spends about €4.2 billion annually on unemployment payments with a further €0.5 billion on activation. This bill is part of the Minster’s strategy to use activation measures to differentiate between those who are genuine jobseekers and those who may not be genuinely unemployed and use savings arising from this approach to create more activation and opportunities for people to be gainfully involved in community work and so on.
The reaction of the main opposition parties to this bill is a continuation of their two faced policies, sending contradictory messages as to what they would do to different audiences.
In March 2010 at his party conference, FG’s leader, Enda Kenny, complained about borrowing billions to subsidise idleness and dependency for unemployed people. Yet his party’s spokesperson now complains about the very measures her leader called for.
On 5th November 2009 Labour’s leader, Eamon Gilmore, stated on RTE’s The Panel progamme that “there is a requirement to get any dole payment that you have to be available for work or available for education or whatever, and if someone doesn’t comply with that you don’t pay them”, which is in direct contradiction to his party’s spokesperson on Social and Family affairs.
Just as with the Croke Park agreement, Labour is again talking out of both sides of its mouth in a desperate bid to buy votes.