Government urged to create part-time jobs programme

Mon, May 21, 2012, 01:00

THE GOVERNMENT has been urged to establish a part-time job opportunities programme in the public and voluntary sectors with the potential to provide work for up to 100,000 people.

In a position paper, Social Justice Ireland (formerly Cori Justice), says the scheme is based on a similar jobs plan that was piloted in the mid-1990s and later adopted by the then government.

This allowed jobless people to be employed part time in public bodies – such as local authorities – as well as voluntary and community groups in order to do work of “public or social value” that is not being done at present.

Latest figures show that the rate of joblessness has remained broadly steady at just over 14 per cent. The rates are highest among young people, where the rate is closer to 30 per cent.

Fr Seán Healy of Social Justice Ireland said the model it is proposing had proved successful during 1990s but that the need for it “dissolved” as the economy recovered in the early 2000s.

Under a revised version, participants would work for as many hours as would give them a net income equivalent to their jobseekers’ allowance, plus an additional €20 a week.

While the Government has launched various initiatives to combat unemployment – such as the JobBridge scheme which has created about 7,000 internship places – he said they were not ambitious or far-reaching.

Social Justice Ireland estimates that 100,000 positions could be created using its part-time job opportunities programme.

It says funding up to 10,000 places in the community and voluntary sector and 90,000 in the public sector would carry a total net additional cost of €150 million. This includes €90 million for the 90,000 places in the public sector and €60 million for the 10,000 places in the community and voluntary sector.

Funds being spent on social welfare payments to participants on this programme would be switched to their new employers.

Fr Healy said he believed participation needed to be on a voluntary basis. Once a person worked the required number of hours, they should be allowed to do additional work if they so wished and be taxed accordingly.

“If the person received further income from another job, this income would be assessed for tax purposes in the normal way,” he said. “To protect against any deadweight effect, no position under the programme would be created if a person had been employed to do this particular work at any point during the previous two years.”

In a pilot programme, he said the programme’s manager had liaised with trade unions, professional organisations, employment agencies and personnel departments to arrive at a reasonable hourly rate for the jobs created.

Meanwhile, a leading Redemptorist priest has said the Catholic Church must make young people its top priority but it needs assistance from State agencies and the community to help meet their challenges. Fr Noel Kehoe said that the Redemptorist order was well positioned to facilitate a partnership approach between the church and the community through its subsidiary, Scala, which is based on a partnership with lay people.

“The church must prioritise investment in youth ministry and put in place initiatives and responses that are meaningful and pertinent to the needs of young people,” he said.

He was speaking at the official opening of Scala’s new centre at Castlemahon House in Blackrock.

SVP CRITICISES HIGH EARNERS WHO JUSTIFY AUSTERITY ON OTHERS

The Society of St Vincent de Paul has forcefully criticised those in well-placed positions who justify austerity while suggesting they understand the problems of ordinary people.

An editorial in the society’s quarterly magazine The Ozanam Bulletin describes as “an obscenity in Irish life today” that so many “in leading influential positions, on the high levels of pay which some sectors of Irish society still enjoy, tell the less fortunate they must suffer more”.

It says that “suffering has been visited on ordinary families to pay for the economic damage caused by the greed of others and those lecturing from well-placed positions do not understand what it means to be deprived.

Another article in the magazine says that while economic bodies claim austerity is working, it is the low-income households which suffer most of the pain, while little sympathy is offered to the poorest who are the human face of the effects of austerity.

Also in the current edition is an editorial it ran nine years ago warning that government policies were creating divisions between the “haves” and “have-nots”.

PATSY McGARRY