THE rise in unemployment in County Clare in a five-year period is reflected in the growing number of families qualifying for the Mortgage Income Supplement Scheme (MISS).
In 2005, €96,000 was paid out to Clare social welfare recipients to assist them with interest-only repayments on mortgages but by the end of 2009, the figure had grown to over €1.2 million.
Almost 300 Clare families now find themselves in this situation through the breadwinner’s loss of job or decrease in working hours. This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the problem on a national scale.
The scheme is quite restrictive, in that anyone in full-time employment is automatically ineligible, as are those working over 30 hours a week in part-time employment, while the income of a spouse or partner is also taken into account in the assessment.
North Clare councillor Martin Conway has predicted the amount of money paid out under the scheme in the county could reach €3m by the end of this year, as the number of applications being received by the Health Service Executive continues to reflect the rise in unemployment.
He has expressed grave concern that because of mortgage difficulties, an increasing number of Clare families are resorting to moneylenders to keep a roof over their heads.
Clare Citizens’ Information Service manager, Paul Woulfe, deals day in, day out with people who find themselves in difficulty with repaying mortgages. He recently made a submission to the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which is conducting a national review to see if the scheme needs to be changed in view of the recession.
He maintains that the rental income from private tenants should be disregarded for the MISS when a person loses their job, as it goes directly towards paying the mortgage and if they become homeless, they would then be dependent on the rent supplement rent a room relief.
He also wants the one-year limit on the payment extended due to the amount of time people are now going to be without work.
The Mortgage Income Supplement Scheme is a godsend for families trying desperately to save their home from the clutches of lending institutions. However, it comes at a cost and an increasing one at that, which will be passed on to the taxpayer.
Facing the teachers
It’s quite the understatement to say that Tánaiste and Minister for Education, Mary Coughlan was not the most welcome figure on the circuit of teachers’ conferences this week. In fact, the recently appointed minister got quite a lesson as to how angry our teachers feel about plans to cut their pay, as well as the conditions that they and their pupils have to contend with due to lack of manpower or poor classroom conditions.
Delegates at the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) conference in Ennis gave unanimous backing to an emergency resolution rejecting the proposed public service agreement negotiated at Croke Park last month. The motion also reserved the right of the TUI to act independently of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions or other groups in pursuing its claims. The next step for the union is to ballot all 15,000 members, with a recommendation for rejection.
The TUI general secretary, Peter McMenamin, accused the Government of squandering the nation’s resources for generations into the future by distributing the personal debts of a few elite bank executives, resulting in a liability of €12,000 for every individual in the country.
“Why is it that this Government will allow the three or four senior executives of this bank to escape their responsibilities, leaving behind their personal debts running to over €100 million to be picked up by the taxpayer, while the books for schoolchildren are withdrawn and the pay of TUI members is cut to the bone and beyond?”
He compared the €22 billion to bail out Anglo Irish Bank to the €8bn budgeted for education and asked if there was “something rotten in the State of Ireland”.
In Galway on Wednesday, ASTI delegates adopted an emergency motion expressing “total and vehement opposition” to the public service agreement and asking its central executive to recommend the rejection of the agreement in a ballot of members.
While Mary Coughlan was heckled during a speech at the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation annual congress in Salthill on Monday, the INTO is the only teaching union that will recommend acceptance of the deal to its members in a ballot. Delegates narrowly defeated by 308 votes to 304 a motion demanding that the proposed public service agreement be sent to a ballot of members with a recommendation to reject it. However, if this is reflective of the overall position of primary school teachers, the vote could go either way.
At this conference, the minister did express anger over the amount of capital being injected into the banking system, considering the cutbacks that are being imposed across Government departments. Nevertheless, she underlined the need to get credit flowing in our economy again and said we need a stable banking system to restart economic growth.
The teachers’ position on the proposed public service agreement may not garner too much support from people in the private sector, which has been severely hit by pay cuts and job losses, but they are a powerful force as a trade union movement and Mary Coughlan knows she must tread delicately in dealing with them. She is trying to achieve a balance between soothing their pain and toeing the Government line.
Addressing the TUI conference in Ennis, she announced a review of the moratorium on recruitment of middle management, to relieve pressure from retirements. However, she followed up with the bad news in making it clear that the Government is prepared to face down any industrial action.
Given the militant mood of the teachers, it is likely that the Government will face this test yet.