Fine Gael TD for Cavan/Monaghan, Heather Humphreys, has received confirmation from Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, that part-time fire-fighters will now be entitled to jobseeker’s payments. Up to now many retained fire-fighters were deemed ineligible for jobseekers on the grounds that they were not ‘available for and seeking work’.
Minister Burton, in response to representations made by Deputy Humphreys, has confirmed that she intends to legislate for this anomaly in the upcoming Social Welfare and Pensions Bill which will finally provide clarity to this longstanding problem.
“Minister Burton has confirmed to me in writing that Social Welfare and Pensions Bill will provide that any days of employment as a fire fighter will not reduce the individual’s jobseeker’s benefit weekly entitlement. If they work five days as a fire fighter they will also receive 5 days of Jobseeker’s benefit.
“However, if they have other employment aside from fire fighting then their jobseeker’s benefit entitlement will reduce for days worked in their non-fire fighting job. As such, the legislation will result in no losses being imposed on existing retained fire fighters who are in receipt of a Jobseeker’s payment. Having taken up the case of part-time firefighters who have been disallowed jobseeker’s benefits, I want to welcome this news and commend Minister Burton for her efforts.
“As Minister Burton confirmed to me, the new legislation will address an anomaly that has existed in the system since 1972, when it was decided that days of fire fighting or training by retained fire-fighters were disregarded when determining their entitlement to Jobseeker’s benefit or allowance.
“In recent years a large number of part time firefighters have been disallowed of on availability and genuinely seeking work grounds have been imposed by Deciding Officers in the Department of Social Protection. On foot of numerous representations, the Minister established a working group to examine the issues in relation to this group in 2012. Having considered the working group’s report, the Minister has now decided to legislate for the full status quo in the Social Welfare & Pensions Bill 2013 that she will publish shortly.
“In light of the social good of the work of part time fire fighters, regulations will also be introduced stating that a retained fire fighter who is on call will be deemed to satisfy the availability conditionality. This will mean that retained fire fighters will no longer be disallowed on the grounds of availability for the days they are on call. However, they will still have to show that they are genuinely seeking work for the days they are not on call as a fire fighter.
“I am glad this this situation will now be resolved. Given the vital service these workers provide to their local communities, it is important that they are not disincentivised from becoming part time firefighters.”