A young candidate in the upcoming local elections has claimed that he was questioned over his political views by an official from the Department of Social Protection. Karl Gill, a 23-year-old candidate for Dún Laoghaire with People Before Profit, also said that he was told his welfare payments are liable to be cut if he refuses to work on a labour activation scheme in the event that he is not elected.
Gill told Trinity News that he was called into his local social welfare office for a meeting yesterday after being recognised by a welfare officer as he signed on last week. He said that the officer in question used the meeting to interrogate him over his views on social welfare and the JobBridge programme. “She knew that I was running for election,” he said. “It was obvious from the way she questioned me that she had researched my political views.”
I might as well have been arguing with a Fine Gael canvasser.
Gill claimed that the officer went on to refute his comments on JobBridge. “I told her that I think it is a free labour scheme for big businesses,” he said. “She argued against me and said measures were needed to put the long-term unemployed back to work. I might as well have been arguing with a Fine Gael canvasser.” He claimed that he “was given the impression that my political opinions could go against my claims. Had I not known any better, I could have been conned into thinking my social welfare payments are at risk if I lose the election.”
Gill, who has been unemployed for 12 months, also said that he was told his social welfare payments may be cut if he refuses to take up an activation placement in the event that he is not elected. Under the Gateway labour activation scheme, long-term unemployed people can be selected to work to work on local authority projects for 22 months. Participants are required to work on average 19 ½ hours a week at a weekly payment of €208. Individuals in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance may have their social welfare payment reduced or ended if they refuse to take up a placement offer.
In a statement to Trinity News, the Department of Social Protection said it could not comment on individual cases. However, it said that it is not the practice of the Department to call in individual jobseekers and ask them their political views or views on any of the social welfare schemes.
“Where jobseekers put themselves forward for election, this would not in itself debar them from receiving their jobseeker’s payment,” a spokesperson for the Department said. “Officials do randomly select jobseekers when they are attending the office for signing on purposes and discuss their job seeking activities with them. The focus of the Intreo process now in place in the Department is on helping jobseekers back to work, training and education, providing not just income but employment supports for jobseekers.”