The chair of Trinity Labour Youth has said she is “devastated” that the campaign to reverse controversial cuts to jobseekers allowance for those aged under 26, did not result in the government doing so in today’s budget.
Speaking to Trinity News Eileen Smith says that she can’t speak for all members but that she “cannot underestimate [her] own personal disappointment”. The Trinity branch was just one of many Labour Youth organisations around the country working to convince those in the government that the cuts should have been reversed.
Currently, if someone applies for jobseekers allowance then the rate they receive until aged 25 is €100 a week. Recipients that are 25 years of age receive €144.00 and those aged 26 over receive the full payment €188 a week. Labour Youth said in campaign material that this translates to 53% of the standard rate.
This tiered system of payment based on age was introduced in 2013 and have been a point of contention among many youth organisations since.
“Labour Youth ran an amazing campaign and galvanised support amongst the parliamentary Labour Party for our motion” said Smith. “To not get the result we wanted is a blow”.
Labour Youth had created a video in order to gather support for their proposal referring to it as “welfare equality”. In the video, a voice-over asserts that “just because you’re under 26, doesn’t mean you don’t have bills to pay. Just because you’re under 26 doesn’t mean that you can’t have a family to support. And just because you’re under 26 doesn’t mean you’re worth any less”.
On October 7 Labour Youth presented their budget proposals to Labour minister for public expenditure Brendan Howlin, posting a photo of the meeting on their Facebook page. The organisation wrote that their “main focus was on our ongoing campaign to raise Jobseeker’s Allowance for people under 26. We had a constructive meeting with the Minister and Labour Youth are hoping for progress on this vital issue in Budget 2016”.
Many elected representatives publicly supported Labour Youth’s campaign to have the government reverse the cuts. TDs Anne Ferris and Ciara Conway along with senator Aideen Hayden were supporters in Leinster House, but a whole range of councillors supported the measure including Dermot Lacey, Jane Horgan-Jones and Martina Genockey.
Councillor Lacey had said in support of the campaign that “young people are not apprentice citizens, they are citizens and should be treated equally, and now because of economic progress we can afford it too”.
In a statement to Trinity News this evening Cllr. Lacey said that he wants to see the cut reversed but he is “a realist and know everything cannot be done at once. This budget overall is a step in the right direction and I look forward to Labour being in a position to influence the next five budgets”.
Separately, president of the National Youth Council of Ireland Ian Power said that the organisation “had proposed the restoration of the full adult rate of €188 for young jobseekers under 26 who participate in initiatives such as the Back to Education Scheme, SOLAS funded training and JobBridge”.
The NYCI “expressed disappointment that the Government has failed to reverse the deep cuts to jobseekers allowance for those under 26”.