Dáil Éireann - Volume 387 - 14 February, 1989

Written Answers. - Interview Procedures.

[62] 63. Mr. McCartan asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he has satisfied himself with the arrangements for interviewing unemployment benefit/ assistance recipients at Howth Garda station, County Dublin, in view of the fact that members of his staff recently attended and called people queueing from the line and took them to the sergeant's office for questioning, with the result that many believed that they were being detained and obliged to answer questions; if he will ensure that more civilised interview procedures will be established for social welfare recipients in the Howth area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Entitlement to unemployment payments is subject to the conditions that a claimant must be unemployed, available for and genuinely seeking work. The Department must be satisfied that claimants continue to satisfy these conditions while they are in receipt of payment and for this reason all claims are subject to review from time to time.

Reviews of entitlement may take the form of reviews of individual cases which warrant specific attention or they may consist of reviews of certain claims selected on a random basis. Persons whose claims are reviewed may be asked to supply evidence of the specific efforts they have made to find employment.

Officers from the Department's external control unit regularly interview claimants at the Department's network of local offices, and at signing centres throughout the country.

Approximately 800 postal claimants sign each week at Howth Garda station which is a signing centre for North Cumberland Street Employment Exchange. This arrangement is provided to facilitate those signing on locally.

On Tuesday, 24 January, two control officers of the Department's External Control Unit, attended at Howth Garda station as part of their normal duties. The gardaí made a room available, on [63] request, for the purpose of the interviews, to afford privacy and confidentiality. The control officers identified themselves as social welfare officials to the general queue, as is the standard practice, and none of the claimants should have been unaware of their identity.

Claimants, who were selected at random, were directed by one control officer to the interview room and asked briefly by the other control officer about such routine matters as their efforts to get work and their availability for work. None of these interviews lasted more than a couple of minutes as each of the control officers was aware of the need to avoid unnecessary delay to claimants awaiting interview. Where it is necessary to conduct a somewhat more prolonged interview the practice is not to conduct these in Garda stations but in departmental offices or suitable rented premises.

It is considered that the present arrangements in relation to these routine interviews at Howth Garda station signing centre are satisfactory.