Statement by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
Vice-Chair of Jobs, Social Protection & Education Committee
Labour Party TD, Dublin North Central
Thursday, 24th February 2012
Vice-Chair of the Jobs, Social Protection and Education Committee Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has today welcomed the Government's plan to tackle the unemployment crisis.
The Labour Party TD was speaking after the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton launched her department's "Pathways to Work" which aims to get 75,000 people currently long-term unemployed back into the workforce.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: "I welcome Minister Joan Burton's initiative and I believe it is further evidence of the Labour Party's commitment to address the employment crisis which has engulfed this country."
"This is an ambitious plan which will seek to reduce the average time jobseekers spend on the live register from 21 months to less than 12 months by 2015. Under the Minister's plan, assessments will be carried out to ascertain what supports are needed to ensure a person making a claim gets every resource available to return to work. This plan is a clear acknowledgement that the damage of unemployment is not just an economic one, but a social one also.
"Some of the language used in terms of the unemployment crisis has been quite unfortunate as it has been estimated purely in terms of a loss of €20,000 to the exchequer in terms of VAT loss and social welfare payments. But it is the attack on the dignity of the human person which has the potential to cause greater damage to that individual, their family and society in general. Empowering those unfortunate enough to be jobless and addressing their needs with sympathy, respect and understanding is key to tackling this issue which has the effective status of a national emergency.
"Not only will this address issues affecting us today, but it will also give us a head start when this country enters a period of economic recovery. Even during the boom years of the Celtic Tiger, 150,000 people were still out of work when demand for labour had never been greater. This was the legacy of the last period of economic turmoil in the 1980s and early-1990s when successive administrations failed to tackle the issue of long-term unemployment.
"What Joan Burton has outlined today is a new departure in tackling our unemployment situation. This programme will empower people by giving them the supports and the direction to get themselves back to work. For many, the social welfare system can act as a barrier to employment and social mobility. However, this plan will radically change that.
"Coupled with Pathways to Work, the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has ensured provision of new education supports for the long-term unemployed. Minister Quinn has already stated that this will provide opportunities for the unemployed to upskill and reskill in areas of identified skills needs where sustainable employment opportunities are expected to arise.
"Minister Burton's announcement today is further evidence of the Labour Party delivering on our commitment to address the employment crisis and getting our people back to work. It is challenging, but we are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past and by targeting our resources in this way we can ensure that we are best placed to capitalise on the recovery when it does come around."