News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 21st February 2014

Dole cut for the long-term unemployed in Ireland who refuse to work a reality



The Dublin City Council will take on 295 workers under the Gateways scheme, while South Dublin and Fingal are each getting 215. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown are taking on 110 jobseekers.

Across all county and city councils, 3,000 placements have been allocated to local authorities since candidate selection began. Approximately 2,500 jobseekers have been referred for recruitment to councils. In the region of 500 jobseekers are awaiting Garda Vetting.

The Department of the Environment confirmed that anyone who refuses a placement can have their dole cut or stopped.

The Department of the Environment said that the initiative, which was announced in Budget 2013 for those unemployed for over two years “is a County and City Council work placement scheme designed to provide short-term working opportunities for unemployed people”.

Dole payments: Similar to the Job-bridge programme where people get an extra €50 on top of their dole when placed in a full-time job for a certain period, participants in the Gateway programme will work for an average of 19.5 a week and the placement will last for 22 months.

The minimum weekly payment for participants – based on 19.5 hours worked – is €208. If the rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance that the participant is getting (including dependents) is €188 a week or less, then they will get an addition €20

The department added that the scheme is intended to assist the personal and social development of participants by providing short-term work opportunities with the objective of “bridging the gap between unemployment and re-entering the workforce.

“The work opportunities are intended to benefit the local area and are identified and provided by County and City Councils in both urban and rural areas. Responsibility for delivery of this initiative rests with individual County and City Councils,” they said.

Random selection: Participants are selected by a random process conducted by the Department of Social Protection from people getting Jobseeker’s payment for 24 months or more.

The types of projects to be worked on under Gateway include: village enhancement schemes, landscaping, working in libraries and the control of animals.

Participants may also be charged with the role of “tourism ambassadors” for the area.

Once a person has completed their placement they can not participate in the programme for another three years.

The Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed (INOU) said that this initiative presents a “real and significant challenge” for local authority management.

A challenge: John Stewart of the INOU said there are aspects of the programme to be “anxious” about stating that the people who take up placements need to be adequately matched to a position and not just forced to take up whatever is offered to them.

He added that there had to be proper oversight so as to ensure it is rolled out properly.

“We need more jobs than schemes,” he said adding that there are a whole range of schemes in existence, similar to Gateway.

“Unlike the Community Employment Scheme where people can be self-selective, see an employment scheme they think would suit them and get in touch or apply for it, with this scheme the Department of Social Protection identifies a list of potential candidates and matches them up with the local authorities”.

Matched: He said there is a concern there that people referred should want to do the work. “The last thing local authorities want is someone that has been forced to take on a role and it be totally unsuitable for them. There has to be proper matching up of people to jobs that suit their skills,” said Stewart.

He added that he would like to see participants are seen as “part of a team” in local authorities, adding that there has to be proper inductions given, proper training and proper HR practices, he said, stating that above all the work has to be “meaningful”.

Stewart said that he would like to see a space created and an opportunity there that if someone does not agree with what position they have been matched to, they should be able to raise that with an official and perhaps address what role they think would be suitable for them.

It is his understanding that the initiative has been agreed to by the unions representing local authorities, he said, adding that it would be an appalling situation if local authority workers felt there was duplication in work or positions being undermined.

He added that anyone that has their social welfare reduced or cut off does have a right to appeal and he would like to see similar rights extended to the Gateway programme also.

Obama’s meeting with Dalai Lama annoys China


China angered by recent meeting between the Dalai Lama (left) and Barack Obama.

US President Barack Obama has met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, US officials say.

The US leader vowed “strong support” for the protection of Tibetans’ human rights in China during the encounter.

China had urged the US to cancel the meeting, saying it would “seriously impair China-US relations”.

Beijing described the Dalai Lama as a separatist, while the spiritual leader said he only advocates greater autonomy for Tibet, not independence.

During their meeting in the White House Map Room, Mr Obama and the Dalai Lama reportedly said they hoped talks would resume between Beijing and the Tibetan spiritual leader’s representatives.

The two men last met in 2011, in talks that angered China. Tibet is governed as an autonomous region in China.

China has been widely accused of repressing political and religious freedoms in Tibet. Beijing rejects this and says economic development has improved Tibetans’ lives.

Chinese response to the meeting was swift, with the nation’s Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui summoning US charge d’affaires Daniel Kritenbrink to protest against the encounter.

“China expresses strong indignation and firm opposition,” Mr Zhang said, according to the Xinhua news agency.

“The Tibetan issue is the domestic affair of China, and the United States bears no right to interfere,” he added. “Such a move will gravely sabotage China-US co-operation and relations, and will definitely undermine its own interests.”

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, earlier said Mr Obama met the Dalai Lama “in his capacity as an internationally respected religious and cultural leader”.

“We do not support Tibetan independence,” she said, adding that the US “strongly supports human rights and religious freedom in China.

“We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China.”

In recent years more than 110 ethnic Tibetans – mostly young monks and nuns living in areas outside Tibet – have set themselves on fire in apparent protest against Beijing’s rule.

The Chinese government accuses the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the protests, a charge he strongly rejects.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, after Chinese troops crushed an attempted uprising in Tibet.

He now advocates a “middle way” with Beijing, seeking autonomy but not independence.

Irish Life has credit rating lifted by Standard & Poor’s


Irish Life has seen its credit rating lifted above that of the Irish Government by Standard & Poor’s (S&P).

The irish Government sold the insurance company to Great West of Canada last year.

S&P raised the credit rating to ‘A-‘, from ‘BBB+’ and removed Irish Life from “CreditWatch,” where it had been placed in November.

The agency said it thinks Irish Life would remain solvent even if the State defaulted on its debt.

It said it expectation Irish Life to maintain a competitive position in Ireland, very strong capital and earnings.

The head of Irish Life Bill Kyle said that the move was a positive development for the company.

“We are particularly encouraged that S&P has pointed to Irish Life’s very strong financial risk profile, capital and earnings and strong risk management controls while also noting that our liquidity is exceptional.”

S&P rules allow for companies to have a credit rating up to too notches higher than the country where they operate.

Daniel O’D to take a break from music after Majella’s surgery


Daniel O’Donnell has announced he will take an extended break from music after realising that “life is too short”.

His wife, Majella is attempting to return to full health following surgery for cancer.

The Donegal star said he will make his final performance in February 2015 and will likely not perform again until “at least” the middle of 2016.

He said he and his wife had “taken stock of things” following Majella’s cancer diagnosis and treatment and the realisation that “life is short”.

“Through all of this we have a lot of time to reflect and take stock of things and it makes us realise that life is short.

“I can’t really say how long the break will be, but there will be no shows until at least the middle of 2016,” Daniel told fans on his website.

Meanwhile, Majella O’Donnell said she is feeling “great” after undergoing a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.

Universal health insurance, based on competition, may not be the best option for Irish people


The principles on which the British NHS were founded are still an inspiration to all.

Minister for Health James Reilly(above right)  has outlined the merits of competition-based universal health insurance (UHI) to achieve universal health entitlements for Irish citizens (Irish Times , February 18th, 2014).

However, a national debate has yet to take place on the differing ways of achieving a sustainable universal service.

UHI systems are premised on a belief that competition between insurers and providers will promote efficiency and equity. The German system, termed the Bismarck model, has developed over 130 years and is characterised by a predominance of mandatory social health insurance (SHI) with multiple competing sickness funds and a public/ private mix of providers. The Dutch and German models undoubtedly have benefits, especially in terms of equity. But UHI is not without problems and in the case of Holland it has proved complex to comprehend and implement.

Such systems are normally more expensive than other universal arrangements. The percentage of GDP spent on healthcare is typically above 11 per cent across all UHI systems – the cost of healthcare has risen in Holland and is now more than 12 per cent.

Excessive testing: This cost contrasts with tax-funded systems such as that of the UK, that typically spend under 10 per cent of GDP on healthcare. When demand increases in a healthcare market, supply can also rise. A supplier-induced demand can be created that can increase healthcare utilisation and cost.

Therefore a valid concern with a competition-based model of the universal system is not just the expense, but the potential for overdiagnosis. This can occur in all healthcare systems, with patients being harmed through excessive diagnostic testing and procedures of dubious benefit. But a competition-based model of UHI, despite regulation, could incentivise the phenomenon more than a tax-based system would.

If the competition-based version of UHI was the only mechanism to achieve equity in healthcare there would be no debate, but there are alternative avenues to deliver universality. First, universal entitlement to GP care can be provided without UHI.

The Adelaide Hospital Society, in its 2008 document Social Health Insurance: Further Options for Ireland , reported that the funding gap to provide medical cards to the entire population would be €217 million. The transfer of chronic disease management to the community would require more resources and negotiation with representative organisations, yet it is clear that progressive taxation measures alone could allow this to happen.

The second great inequity in the current Irish system is the access barrier to secondary care. The Government’s solution of a payer-provider split is effectively a privatisation (for profit) of the entire Irish hospital system. While this could prove progressive and equitable, there may well be better options.

Many universal systems adopt single-payer models that do not involve a competitive insurance market which then purchases public or private services. One successful example is Canada. The 2010 report from the Adelaide society argued that “extreme caution is required when considering introducing competition between social health insurance funds in a SHI system”.

It proposed a single health insurance fund, separate from the exchequer, regulated by a social health insurance authority. Such a system operates successfully in Taiwan – and it may well represent the best option here.

But do we need to look that far? The founding principles of the British NHS are solidarity and fairness. This contrasts with Ireland, where almost 50 per cent of the population buys private insurance to access a duplicate system, enabling them to jump queues. The private system cherrypicks lucrative, less risky elective care, reflected in its low contribution to overall health expenditure. We cannot square the circle of inequity within the status quo.

This problem was caused by successive governmental support of the private insurance market. Currently 70 per cent of the Irish health services are funded through taxation and 15 per cent through private insurance. Paying for hospital services almost exclusively through taxation and minimising our current private system is not an unrealistic proposal. It could be achieved through accepting higher progressive taxation and reducing incentives to private healthcare to incentivise the uptake of private services into the under-resourced public system.

I admire Dr Reilly’s desire to achieve universality, but there are several ways of getting there. A national debate is needed on how we achieve this shared aim.

Mark Murphy is a general practitioner in Co Dublin. He is a SPHeRE PhD Scholar based in the HRB Primary Care Centre, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

The melting of significant Antarctic glacier could last for centuries?

Livermore lab researchers state


The rapid melting of a major Antarctic glacier could continue for several more decades or even centuries to come, according to an international team of researchers that includes two scientists from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory PIC. ABOVE RIGHT.

Using the lab’s Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry to measure radioactive isotopes in glacially transported rocks, researchers Bob Finkel and Dylan Rood discovered the Pine Island Glacier — which has experienced rapid melting for the past two decades — underwent similar melting about 8,000 years ago. The glacier sustained the thinning over decades to centuries at an average rate of more than 100 centimeters per year, they said.

Their studies found that “the melting of the Pine Island Glacier at a rate comparable to that over the past two decades is rare but not unprecedented,” Rood said. “Ongoing ocean-driven melting of the glacial ice shelf in current times may result in continued rapid thinning and ground line retreat for several more decades or even centuries.”

The Pine Island Glacier melted between 1.2 and 6 meters per year from 2002-2007, likely linked, researchers said, with an increase of warm water under the ice shelf. The ice loss “dramatically contributes to the sea level of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet,” according to a lab press release.

The research, which could provide insights into the patterns and duration of glacial melt, as well as global climate change, appears in the Feb. 20 issue of Science Express.

Scientists at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and the Berkeley Geochronology Center contributed to the study. Other institutions involved include The British Antarctic Survey, Durham University, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Columbia University.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides solutions to our nation’s most important national security challenges through innovative science, engineering and technology. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.


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