Minister English highlights Government’s plans for Social Protection in 2017

Monday, 9th January 2017

Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal and local Meath West T.D.
Damien English has welcomed the Partnership Government’s Plans for
2017 with regards to Social Protection, including further reductions
in unemployment, now at its lowest since Summer 2008, and helping
another 20,000 long-term unemployed back to work.

The Meath West T.D. and Minister also wants to see further measures to
help the self-employed, and a reform of the pension sector.

“In 2016 unemployment fell to 7.3%, the lowest
level in 8 years, and government’s target to get 20,000 long-term
unemployed people back into work was surpassed. Other highlights were
the successful introduction of Paternity Benefit with more than 3,500 fathers already
availing of it.  We also secured increases across the board in welfare
payments for people with disabilities, carers, blind people, widows,
one parent families, and jobseekers, as well as for pensioners, and
paid the Christmas bonus at 85%” Minister English stated.

“In the year ahead the focus of the Partnership Government in the area
of Social Protection will be firmly on increasing employment, pension
reform, developing the Working Family Payment to reduce child poverty
and ensure that no family is better off on welfare than in work.  We
will also further develop the New Deal for the Self-Employed by
extending benefits for all PRSI contributors as well as expand School
Meals and tackle fraud” Minister English said.

Some of the priorities highlighted in more detail include:

Employment

Continue to make substantial progress towards the unemployment target
of 5-6% and long term unemployment target of <2.5% and move another
20,000 people from welfare to work in 2017. Publication of the Action
Plan for Jobless Families allowing us to zero in on long-term and
intergenerational unemployment.

Tackle Fraud

Include in the Social Welfare spring or summer bill further reforms to
reduce fraud allied to a public campaign against fraud and to
encourage more reporting.

New Deal for the Self-Employed

Develop proposals to extend more social insurance cover to the
self-employed including a form of jobseekers benefit where a person’s
business fails or they can no longer continue working in their
profession or trade.

Expansion of Social Insurance

Implement the extension of Treatment Benefit to the self-employed,
restoration of dental and optical benefits to all eligible PRSI
contributors in March and October as provided for in the Social
Welfare Act 2016, and examine the extension of social insurance to
cover new risks and contingencies.

School Meals

Expand free school breakfasts to children in all DEIS schools and
35,000 children in non-DEIS schools from September. The aim is to make
the programme available to all schools that want to take part over
time.

Working Family Payment

Develop and consult on options for the introduction of a working
family payment with the twin aims of reducing child poverty and
ensuring that no family is better off on welfare than in work. This
will enable us to put forward proposals for inclusion in Budget 2018.

Action Plan for Pension Reform

Develop, publish and commence the implementation of an Action Plan for
the reform of pensions. This Action Plan will include a road map for
the reform of the State pension, rationalisation and reform of the
Defined Benefit pension landscape, transposition of the IORP2
directive and the introduction of auto-enrolment Defined Contribution
pensions for all working people.

Recalibrate Labour Activation Programmes

Reform and recalibrate local activation programmes like Community
Employment, TÚS and Gateway to reflect the changes in the economy and
labour market, and place a greater focus on social inclusion and those
who find it hardest to secure and hold down a job. Develop and launch
a new work experience programme to replace JobBridge.

ENDS

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