Workfare Scheme causes a stir among unemployed.

By Ross Leahy

The controversial new Workfare scheme has been met with mixed reactions amongst those signed onto the live register. Under the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010, those currently signed onto the live register may be forced to work for their jobseeker’s allowance. If they refuse to work they may lose their social welfare.

Steven O’Raw, 39, from Bluebell, is strongly against the act. He said that his ‘knee-jerk reaction is that it infringes civil liberties’. He also added that ‘the idea of being ordered to clean up parks and canals wouldn’t be helpful while trying to look for a job.’

John Browne, 26, from Drimnagh, who had only recently signed onto the live register, had a different opinion on the act. He said ‘[The act] is right, I know people who have been signing on for years without looking for a job.’

This sentiment was echoed by David O’Neill, 30, from Harold’s Cross, who thought it was a good way of catching out fraudsters, although he added that it might be unhelpful for those actually seeking employment. The act was introduced to the Dáil by the Minister for Social Protection, Eamon Ó Cuív. He says the new act will help to create ‘a better future for people who find themselves without a job’. Ó Cuív also stated that that the act would ‘provide those on the live register with work activity in the short term, up-skill them and give them opportunities to get back into the mainstream workforce as speedily as possible’.

The work involved in the act mainly revolves around local communities. It includes work such as childcare, environmental work, care for the elderly among many others.

The act has been condemned by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), which feels the act is ‘more about punishing the unemployed than helping them’.

ICTU President, Jack O’Connor, told a congress delegation at the end of September that, ‘In our view any form of compulsory workfare does not represent a strategy for tackling unemployment. The three countries that implemented this model – the US, Australia and Canada – all abandoned it.’ He added, ‘The real issue here is a lack of job opportunities and the Government’s failure to address the job crisis.’ The new act would affect the 13.8% of the population that is currently unemployed.

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