WIT academics on ‘cruel to be kind’ welfare system

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Two Waterford academics have described Ireland’s welfare system as operating a cruel to be kind policy by forcing jobseekers to take up internships and accept work under threat of continuous sanctions.

In a report published by Doctors Tom Boland and Ray Griffin from Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), it was claimed that the unemployed, or jobseekers, are forced to take up training or internships, apply for and accept any work whatsoever, all under the continuous threat of sanctions for non-compliance, a cut to entitlements of €44 which, they maintain puts citizens below the breadline.

The report also claimed that despite the decrease in the numbers unemployed, the amount of sanctions per year has increased steadily, and will exceed 8,000 this year.

These sanctions, they maintained, are mentioned in all communication with all claimants and are explicitly used to ensure claimants take the earliest offer of work, of any sort, and accept all suggestions by Intreo officers, and form part of a phony ‘Contract of Mutual Responsibilities.’

According to Dr Tom Boland: “Jobseekers are not allowed discretion in their economic choices, they are forced to take a pathway, rather than find their own.”

He continued that International research demonstrated that while sanctioning regimes have an immediate impact in reducing the Live Register, they were also associated with negative health and well-being impacts on claimants and on their future earnings.

Dr Boland explained that harsher welfare systems also tended to re-shape the economy around low-pay, flexible, part-time, insecure work – known among critics as ‘precarious work’. By contrast, he said investment in training and education options for the unemployed would have greater long-term benefits.

The authors conducted the research with jobseekers over five years and according to Dr Ray Griffin, co-author of the report, their research demonstrated clearly that the new activation policies were having an increasingly negative impact on Irish citizens.

Speaking to The Munster Express, Dr. Griffin, who lectures in Strategy and Organisation, said that the system was now micro managing poor people like never before.

“We need to have more transparency in who is being sanctioned. We are all in agreement that people who shouldn’t be getting social welfare, shouldn’t get it but we have to make sure the system is fair. Sometimes people are sanctioned because they haven’t turned up for a job interview. But with the best will in the world. Cars break down, kids get sick. We have to put more trust in our citizens. The reality is there is very little unjustified claiming going on. It exists more in people’s minds.”

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