No pay for JobBridge interns a possibility

Tue, Jan 29, 2013, 00:00

Some participants in JobBridge, the national internship scheme, could end up working for free under changes to the scheme being considered by Government.

At present only social welfare recipients are entitled to take part in the initiative.

Participants receive an allowance of €50 per week, on top of their welfare payments, for work placements of up to nine months. However, a report by the Department of Social Protection recommends extending the scheme to participants with no previous social welfare entitlement.

As a result, these interns would not receive any payment from the State.

But the report states that “consideration should be given to paying the €50 weekly JobBridge allowance to the small number of participants without basic welfare payments.”

The recommendation is contained in a “high-level issues paper” obtained by the The Irish Times. It was prepared by the Department of Social Protection, based on an review of employment support schemes.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said the kind of people who might be out of work and not eligible for social assistance could be someone who was previously self-employed.

In addition, a person could be unemployed but not eligible for welfare because they are under 25 and living at home, or because of the means of their spouse.

The spokeswoman said the departmental review contained many recommendations which will be examined by the department with a view to implementation.

“In this regard, the Minister proposes to convene a stakeholder conference in February to discuss recommendations and their implementation and canvass the views of all interested parties,” she said.

The possibility that interns could work for free is likely to add to criticism of the scheme from groups such as the Socialist Party.

It claims that some employers are exploiting the scheme and are using it as source of cheap labour.

However, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has pointed to an independent report on the initiative last October which found just over half of those who completed their internship went on to find employment.

“I am delighted that an independent review of the scheme has found that this goal is being achieved,” she said at the time.

The “high-level issues paper” report notes that international research shows that the activation programmes – or measures aimed at guiding people into employment – are most effective when they are close to the labour market.

A total of 12,300 people have taken part in JobBridge since it was launched in July 2011. Internships can last between six and nine months.

The department paper is based on a wide-ranging review of whether welfare payments are effective at getting people back into work.

This study found that some schemes ran the risk of making people dependent on social assistance.