To ask the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons who have been identified as participating in full time study while incorrectly claiming jobseeker’s payments in 2011 and 2012; the number of these persons who continued to claim these benefits by proving that they have ceased their education in order to continue to receive their benefits; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Under regulations introduced in 1991, third level institutions are obliged to supply the Department of Social Protection with details of students registered for full-time daytime education. The student details are then matched against the claim databases and any cases identified with open claims are referred to the relevant areas for investigation.
In 2011, data was received from 57 individual colleges, including all 3rd level colleges, Institutes of Technology and PLC course providers. Details are only obtained in respect of students attending full-time day courses. The 2011/12 student registration data match resulted in 5,191 jobseeker cases requiring further examination. It is important to note that in a lot of these cases the customer may be part of the Department’s Back to Education Programme or the Local Office may be aware that the customer is attending a course which does not affect his/her entitlement to a jobseekers payment. In fact, it should be noted that savings have only been recorded in less than 200 jobseeker cases to date.
Data is currently being received and collated for individuals registered as full-time students in the current academic year 2012/2013.
The Department does not keep records of the number of the persons who continue to claim benefits by proving that they have ceased their education, as requested by the Deputy. It should be noted that the Department’s Back to Education Programme is designed to encourage people getting certain social welfare payments to improve their skills and qualifications by taking an approved second or third level course at a recognised school or college and still continue to receive a payment.