Economic downturn shows the importance of welfare system

The welfare system is vital for protecting people from poverty and enabling social cohesion in a recession, according to Fine Gael Seanad spokesperson for social protection, Fidelma Healy Eames.

Senator Healy Eames was speaking at a forum on social welfare this week in Dublin which was organised by the Institut National de Prévoyance Collective (INPC ). Senator Healy Eames also said that Government needs to constantly proof initiatives and schemes to ensure that the financial benefits of working outweigh the benefits of not working.

“Despite its critics, the welfare system is helping to provide a stable platform from which to proceed with our recovery. It provides a level of equality by ensuring a minimum standard of living which in turn encourages social cohesion. Furthermore, much of our annual welfare spend of €20 billion is re-injected directly into the economy.

“In the context of the massive economic downturn that the country has experienced in the last four years, our social welfare system has proven to be an effective model of social insurance for the tens of thousands of people who have sadly lost their jobs.

“That said, it is extremely important that the Government needs to constantly ensure that the financial benefits of working outweigh the benefits of not working. There is a need for a greater understanding of the social contract, contributing as a duty to the nation, and receiving only when in need. It needs to be seen as a hand-up rather than a hand-out.

“Our Government’s aim has been to transform the social protection system from one of passive income support to one of active engagement with people who are unfortunate enough to find themselves unemployed. The social welfare system is now geared towards enabling recipients to return to work as outlined in documents such as Pathways to Work. Schemes like Tús and JobBridge place the focus firmly on facilitating a return to employment. The Government is working with employers to ensure that the participants receive ‘real’ work opportunities and a chance to practice and develop skills. Results are very encouraging with 40 per cent of participants progressing to employment as a result.”

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