Dáil Éireann - Volume 508 - 06 October, 1999
Written Answers. - Employment Action Plan.
Mr. Rabbitte Mr. Rabbitte
90. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if his Department, as part of the employment action plan, has recently stepped up the enforcement of genuinely seeking work criteria; if he has reports of any punitive enforcement of these criteria in any of his Department's local offices; if he has satisfied himself that these criteria are being applied evenly and fairly across all social welfare offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18866/99]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): To be entitled to an unemployment payment a person must satisfy a deciding officer that he-she fulfils, and continues to fulfil, the statutory conditions of being capable of, available for and genuinely seeking but unable to obtain suitable employment.
The employment action plan – EAP – has been in operation since 1998 and is a joint initiative between FÁS and my Department. It applies to certain unemployed persons under age 25 and, since 1 May has been extended to longer-term unemployed persons aged 25-34. Its purpose is, following a detailed interview conducted by a FÁS placement officer to develop an action plan for the individual which will help him-her to return to the active labour market.
As part of the programme ongoing support is provided, including training for as long as the person needs it.
Where a person is referred to FÁS for interview under the employment action plan – EAP – and fails to attend, then the question as to whether he/she continues to fulfil the statutory condition of genuinely seeking suitable employment must be tested.
In these circumstances the case is referred to a deciding officer for review. Where a deciding officer decides, following an interview with the person, that he-she does not fulfil this condition, the claim is disallowed. If the person is dissatisfied with the deciding officer's decision he-she has a right of appeal to the independent social welfare appeals office.
I introduced regulations in 1998 which set out in detail the steps a person is required to take in order to be deemed to have satisfied the availability and genuinely seeking employment conditions. When the regulations were being drafted a wide range of interests were consulted. In order to ensure that a uniform approach was adopted to the application of the regulations detailed guidelines were issued in June 1998 and training was provided to deciding officers. My Department's decision advisory office provides ongoing training and support to locally based deciding officers and every effort is being made to ensure  uniformity in relation to decisions across the network of local offices.
I have had no reports of any punitive enforcement of the regulations in any of my Department's local offices.
Dáil Éireann 508 Written Answers. Employment Action Plan.