Dáil Éireann - Volume 387 - 01 March, 1989

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Social Welfare Payment Conditions.

1. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the fact that workers who opt for early retirement or voluntary redundancy in the public service are being asked to sign a form at local employment exchanges requesting them to furnish information as to where they are seeking [1934] employment, to submit documentary evidence to this effect and are being asked if they have registered with FÁS; if his Department have given such a direction to the managers of employment exchanges; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): All applicants for unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance are obliged to fulfil the statutory conditions of being capable of, available for and genuinely seeking work. Persons who sign the live register for the sole purpose of receiving credited insurance contributions are also required to fulfil these conditions.

Workers, whether in the public or private sector, who opt for voluntary redundancy or early retirement must satisfy the statutory conditions before they are entitled to unemployment payments and to credited contributions.

To determine whether a person fulfils the statutory conditions which entitle him or her to sign the live register each applicant is asked to complete a special form called the UB1 Supplement which, I presume, is the form to which the Deputy refers. This form asks claimants to provide details relating to their previous employment, domestic circumstances, occupation and general availability for employment. Applicants are also requested to submit any documentary evidence they may have of their efforts to obtain employment, including whether they have registerd with FÁS.

The completion of the UB1 Supplement form and the seeking of documentary evidence of efforts to find work are part of the normal application procedure. The questions asked are reasonable and necessary to determine entitlement to be on the live register.

Persons who opt for early retirement or voluntary redundancy and who sign on the live register must fulfil the statutory conditions in the same way as all other applicants. No special instructions have issued from my Department to employment exchange managers in respect of such persons.

[1935] Mr. Bell: Is the Minister aware that the problem has been highlighted following the introduction of the voluntary redundancy or early retirement scheme in the public service? Is the Minister aware that council workers aged between 60 and 65 years who opt for the early retirement scheme have to sign on at their local employment exchange where they are requested to establish that they are seeking employment? Is the Minister aware that they are asked to produce documentary evidence to show that they are seeking employment? Will the Minister agree that it is ludicrous for the Department of Health or the Environment to be encouraging people to accept early retirement when the Department of Social Welfare asks them, when they opt for early retirement, where they are seeking retirement? That is a contradiction in terms and I should like the Minister to comment on it.

Dr. Woods: Yes, I recognise the problem identified by the Deputy. There has been a tendency in recent times to recognise unemployment payments as a right, and they are a right but under certain conditions. Those conditions apply to everybody in those circumstances. A special problem arises where people are signing for credits. I appreciate the point made by the Deputy about those who are over 60 years of age and are simply signing for credits. I am certainly prepared to examine that position to see if we can come to a new arrangement whereby those over 60 who are signing for credits to keep their record in order up to the time they reach 65 years of age can be facilitated.

Mr. Bell: Will the Minister have a look at the problem I have identified? Public service employees who opt for early retirement are fearful of accepting the terms of the scheme because they do not know what they will have to face if they leave the service. Many of those who opted for the scheme were signing for between six or eight weeks before they received unemployment benefit.

[1936] Dr. Woods: I will have a look at the problem identified by the Deputy and at the position in regard to credits.

An Ceann Comhairle: I should like to advise the House that there are four Priority Questions to be disposed of within the next ten minutes and I require the co-operation of Members in disposing of them.