Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection has received confirmation from the Department of Social Protection that twice the number of young people from low income households have been affected by government cuts to the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) since last year.
BTEA is a means-tested payment for jobseekers who return to education. Since 1 January 2014, the majority of BTEA recipients under 26 have been subjected to a rate cut of €28 a week – the allowance is €160 instead of €188. This cut is further compounded during the summer months as the under 26s are then paid only the cut-rate Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) of €100, not the full rate of €188.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:
“This discriminatory rate of Back to Education Allowance is an admission by Joan Burton’s Department that the recovery the Government claim to have arrived is a ‘myth’, or to use Joanna Tuffy’s recent analogy a ‘Fairy tale’, for disadvantaged young people wishing to better their changes of a job by returning to education. In reality more young people trying to return to education will be impacted by these discriminatory BTEA rates with the passage of time.
“The letter from the Department puts paid to recent Labour/Fine Gael assertions that the economy has recovered. They are at pains to convince us that economic fortunes have changed during their time in power. In recent months the Labour party have been encouraging the good people of Ireland to ‘get a ‘kitchen makeover’ with the extra disposable income they’ve put in our pockets. Joanna Tuffy was trumpeting the increase in new car sales and foreign holidays this year as a triumph of her party’s years in power.
“The Labour Party and their deputies are out of touch with the harsh realities of life that hundreds of thousands of our citizens have had to deal with as a result of this Governments austerity agenda. As with the case I have highlighted today, it shows they are willing to target some of the most disadvantaged in society, those surviving on welfare payments and trying to return to education to help their chances of future employment. It is the most disadvantaged that are being made pay for the elite’s and government’s gambling and mistakes.
“Cutting Back to Education Allowance rates for young people is totally contrary to this government’s promise to protect “core social welfare rates” or to protect the most vulnerable and is a form of discrimination against young people. It gives lie to their statements in the Programme for Government that they “will maintain social welfare rates” and were committed to protecting the vulnerable and to burden sharing on an equitable basis”. We in Sinn Féin believe in a fair recovery for all our citizens and we will deliver on this based on our policies rooted in equality and social justice.”