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Reframing the Irish Activation Debate: Accommodating Care and Safeguarding Social Rights and Choices

Blue Paper Abstract

Work activation is a phrase used to describe a policy objective of moving people of working age from a social welfare payment into paid employment. It uses the social welfare system proactively to support, encourage or oblige claimants to participate in work, education or training. In this context a recent government publication - Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents - signals the introduction of a stronger form of work activation for lone parents and low-income mothers, including the introduction of a work obligation of 19.5 hours per week when their youngest children reach the age of eight.

This paper, Reframing the Irish Activation Debate, critically engages with that government initiative. It seeks to develop a positive model of activation capable of supporting people in their efforts to find decent, sustainable employment. It does this by developing a template that can be used as a model for activating adults of working age, including people with disabilities, migrants, youth, homeless or older people. It looks at the international literature dealing with activation and employment of lone parents and low income mothers and discusses issues concerning the ethics of care, time, health and work/life balance. It analyses the situation of these target groups in Ireland at the present time. It discusses conditionality and argues for a rights-based approach that incorporates a strong legal framework and activation policy. Finally it examines the challenges faced by institutions and individuals involved in implementing work activation policies.

The paper was officially launched by Dr Maureen Gaffney on 23 January 2008.

About the Author

Mary Murphy lectures at the Department of Sociology, NUI, Maynooth. She has held senior policy roles with the Society of St Vincent de Paul and the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed and has represented both bodies in national policy institutions including NESC and NESF. She is a former Visiting Research Fellow at the Policy Institute.

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Last updated 27 November 2012 .