Donegal TD Thomas Pringle has criticised the delay in the publication of the report on Seasonal Workers’ access to social welfare supports, calling the inaction “unacceptable”.
Last year, Deputy Pringle called on the then Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar TD, to carry out a report into the potential barriers seasonal workers may face in relation to accessing supports following the cuts in 2012.
Despite the Minister claiming that the report is being finalised, Pringle says that he discovered that the Committee hasn’t even received the report from the Department.
“Seasonal workers, particularly in Donegal, have faced numerous barriers to accessing social welfare entitlements since devastating cuts were made in 2012.
“The reduction in Jobseeker’s Benefit from 12 to 9 months means that seasonal workers particularly those working in the fishing industry end up on Jobseeker’s Allowance. This can have serious implications as it is means-tested.
“It would only cost €39 million to reinstate the Benefit back to the full 12 months nationally which pales in comparison to the overall social protection budget.”
Those working in the fishing and hospitality sectors are the worst hit by the 2012 cuts, he says.
“I also called for the report to look into Subsidiary Employment limits which have remained at €12.50 which still causes difficulties particularly for part-time farmers who supplement their income with other work. It was revealed to me that the Department does not know the cost for increasing this limit to €25 which further justified a Report to look into costings for changes to social supports.
“I felt all these barriers were discriminatory to seasonal workers because through no fault of their own they work in sectors where employment is limited.
“At the time the Minister confirmed he had heard a lot of these cases come through the Department from Donegal so the issue is quite prevalent here due to various factors including lack of full-time work, the dominance of tourism, hospitality and fishing sectors.
“Last year the Minister agreed to prepare a Department report by way of amending Budget legislation and committed to referring the report to Committee once published. However, it turns out the Social Protection Committee has not yet heard from the Department while the Minister has confirmed that the Report is in its final stages.
“We are now entering a second Budgetary cycle since I first called for this report and still no sign of its whereabouts. Seasonal workers cannot afford to wait for political cycles and so I am calling on the Minister to publish the report for consideration by the Committee without delay,” concludes Pringle.