Dáil Éireann - Volume 497 - 26 November, 1998

Written Answers - FÁS Training Programmes.

75. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if persons who are unemployed for more than one year can retain secondary benefits when they take up FÁS courses, as is permitted under the back to education scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25227/98]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney): I presume the Deputy is referring to the retention of secondary benefits on FÁS training courses.

Retention of secondary benefits while on FÁS training courses is subject to the respective means tests for the benefits and, therefore, retention is [872] not guaranteed. Persons taking up training opportunities may have their secondary benefit entitlements reduced where allowances, including travel and other expense allowances, are regarded as means.

The overall matter of the retention of secondary benefits on transition from unemployment to work, or to labour market programmes including training programmes, is a complex issue and is currently under consideration as part of a wide ranging review of the impact of secondary benefits on the incentive to work or to participate on programmes. My Department is represented on the interdepartmental steering group, chaired by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs, which is at present considering these issues.

I am very mindful of the importance of incentivising participation by the long-term unemployed in active labour market programmes, particularly in programmes with the best progression outcomes. To this end, I have included in my Departments Estimate for next year provision for a substantial increase in the training allowance to £25 per week. This will now be available to all long-term unemployed persons participating in training. This will assist in improving the incentive for long-term unemployed persons to take up training, as opposed to other labour market programmes.