Department of Social Protection publishes Ireland’s National Social Report 2014


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The National Social Report 2014, an EU policy reporting document prepared by Member States and submitted to the European Commission, was published today (Monday, 28th April 2014) by the Department of Social Protection. It is the main mechanism for Member States to report on their EU social policy obligations. The Report will be used by the European Commission to augment policy coordination and shared learning among EU member states.

The Report, which has been approved by Government, was prepared in conjunction with the National Reform Programme. The National Reform Programme reports Member States’ progress on five headline targets under the Europe 2020 Strategy.

The National Social Report focuses on Government policies concerning social protection, social inclusion and health and long-term care. These policies are connected with and supported by the broader economic and employment policies and high level targets set out in the National Reform Programme. The Report documents key reforms in these areas, particularly from July 2013 to June 2014.

In welcoming the Report, Social Protection Minister, Joan Burton, T.D. said: "The reforms and initiatives outlined in this Report indicate the progress that has been made during the past year in Ireland to meet the social objectives of the European Union. The Irish Government is on course to return its public finances to a sustainable path. Social protection policies play a key role in contributing to and augmenting economic recovery by increasing employment opportunities for people who are long-term unemployed. The social protection system provides both a safety net for those who need it and a springboard back to work for jobseekers."

The National Social Report outlines the progress across the wide range of social policy areas encompassed by the open method of co-ordination, the mechanism by which the social objectives of the European Union are agreed. Among its key messages are:

  • The increase in the employment rate by nearly 2% over that of 2012 and the reduction in the unemployment rate to 12%.
  • Ireland’s performance in reducing poverty though social transfers is amongst the best in the EU as core welfare rates have been protected.
  • The Government has adopted a new policy framework for children and young people: Better Outcomes: Brighter Futures; which includes a new child-specific poverty target to lift 70,000 children out of consistent poverty by 2020.
  • There is a greater emphasis on active labour market policies and integrated service delivery to support jobseekers, in particular the long-term unemployed, back to work.
  • The introduction of a housing assistance payment will improve access to social housing while long-term homelessness will be tackled by a housing-led approach.
  • Pensions policy is being reformed to ensure sustainable provision and to facilitate a longer working life.
  • Social protection for young people is being changed to encourage access to education, training and employment.

The Department of Social Protection consulted with national stakeholders in the preparation of the National Social Report. It convened a consultation meeting in March, which was attended by 50 representatives of national stakeholders, along with Government Departments and Agencies. The draft Report was circulated to the stakeholders for a further comment prior to its finalisation. Comments were received from the National Economic and Social Council, the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, the European Anti-Poverty Network, Social Justice Ireland and the National Women’s Council of Ireland.

Minister Burton referred specifically in the report to the issue of access to social protection for young unemployed people. It outlines the social protection schemes available to young people, their social insurance coverage and the health care services available to them. It also summarises the reforms being made to tackle youth unemployment, education and training supports available to young unemployed people and the forthcoming Youth Strategy.

"Some EU countries are experiencing massively high rates of youth unemployment close to 60%. Thankfully, the situation in Ireland is more positive. The most recent data from Eurostat shows our youth unemployment rate at 25%, a reduction of 8 percentage points from its peak level. But this is still far too high and that is why we are implementing the Youth Guarantee to address it. The Ballymun Youth Guarantee pilot project is one of the first of its kind to receive approval from the EU Commission, and will inform the further development and roll-out of the national plan."

The Youth Guarantee is a guarantee, supported by central EU funding of €6 billion, that national governments will do all they can to ensure that young unemployed people under the age of 25 are supported to secure a job or receive a work experience, training or educational opportunity within a short period of becoming unemployed.

Under the Ballymun pilot Youth Guarantee, each young jobseeker in the area will receive a guarantee of access to career guidance, leading to identification of an individual career plan with follow-through to training, education, work experience or full-time employment.

Minister Burton continued: "Over the course of 2014 and beyond, processes and programmes will be progressively rolled out to ensure that young unemployed people who have a low probability of finding employment without significant support will receive a Youth Guarantee offer within four months."

ENDS

Last modified:28/04/2014