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Donegal man left penniless after ticking wrong box on dole form

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AN unemployed man living in Letterkenny has been left penniless and could be evicted before Christmas, after his job seekers payment was stopped when he filled in a review form.

‘Paddy’ (not his real name) now finds himself depending on the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and friends for everything after he ticked a box on his social welfare benefit review form, saying he was seeking ‘part-time’ work.

Speaking to the Donegal News on Wednesday evening at his rented accommodation in Letterkenny, the 37 year-old’s electricity had just been turned on thanks to the intervention of the SVP. Since his benefits were stopped from the beginning of last month, he had got into arrears as he could no longer pay the €15 – €25 a week towards his power bill. Last Friday the electricity was cut off.

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“People need to realise what will happen to them if they, like me, tick the box on the review form saying they are available for part-time work only. The social welfare and community welfare officer have explained to me that you must be available for full-time work in order to get job seekers. I mind my four children so I ticked the part-time box.

“My €188 a week has been stopped. The community welfare officer was notified by social welfare not to give me any payment. My €70 a week rent supplement has been stopped so I will probably be put out of my rented house. How am I supposed to live?” Paddy asked.
Citizens Advice explained to him that he is not entitled to any payment now due to changes brought in, in the budget.

He has now managed to make alternative arrangements for child minding and has filled in a new form saying he is available for full-time work. Social Protection have advised him that his appeal could take anywhere between three months and two years.

Paddy was disgusted when it was suggested to him that he engage a solicitor to seek share of his two former partners’ loan parent payments and the childrens’ allowance they receive.

To complicate matters, he suffers from type one diabetes and has to inject himself four times a day and once during the night. On Saturday last, because he had no money, no food and no heat, his blood sugar had dropped to a dangerously low level when his brother arrived to see how he was.
“What am I supposed to live on?” The stress of the last six weeks has been awful,” he added.

Sought work
Paddy’s background had been in farming but he moved to Letterkenny from a more rural part of the county.
He has undertaken courses recommended by social welfare and after one 16-month course, no official qualification was available to any of the participants.
“I have retinal damage as a result of the diabetes so I cannot look at a computer screen all day. I have applied for a position in the new Lidl store opening in town but I believe there are something like 700 applicants. Its the same any job you apply for locally.

Only for SVP
“The few euro I had managed to save over the year to buy my children Christmas presents, I have spent trying to survive this past six weeks. Only for the help of the SVP this week I don’t know what I would have done.
“You hear the politicians saying there is a safety net there for people and there is always supplementary allowance there if no job seekers. This whole thing has left me very depressed. Those forms they send out should not have the part-time option on them if this is what happens.”
Paddy said that he talked to three other people he met at the community welfare office who had also ticked the ‘part-time work’ availability option. Two of these got a payment of half their dole and one got a full payment while he was refused any.
“Now they tell me because I am not listed as getting any benefits, I cannot be put on the local council’s housing list and they wonder why people end up homeless.
“I wonder how many other people out there are in the same situation as me – six weeks without a bean. I cannot thank the SVP enough,” Paddy added.

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Response
The Donegal News put a query to the Department of Social Protection regarding the full-time versus part-time options on the form and what it means. Their response stated: “ In order to qualify for Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) a person must satisfy certain contribution conditions. For Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) a person must also satisfy a means test and a habitual residence condition.
“In addition Jobseeker’s Allowance and Jobseeker’s Benefit require a person to be available for full-time work and genuinely seeking such work. Where a person is only available for part-time work they will not qualify for payment. If a person is employed on a part-time basis while looking for full-time work a jobseeker payment may apply subject to other conditions, including the number of days employed each week and the level of earnings.
“Family Income Supplement (FIS) is an income support available for low income employees working 38 hours or more per fortnight and where they have at least one qualified child dependant.”

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Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland