Coughlan reviewing work scheme for people on welfare


TÁNAISTE AND Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan is currently reviewing a Government work experience programme for social welfare beneficiaries where only 85 positions out of a potential 2,000 have been taken up.

The review is due to be completed next week.

The Work Placement Programme was launched jointly last May by Ms Coughlan and Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin.

The aim of the programme was to provide six months’ work experience for 2,000 individuals who had been unemployed for at least six months, including graduates. Participants would be permitted to retain their social welfare entitlements.

In response to a parliamentary question from Labour TD Joanna Tuffy, the Tánaiste said that, to date, only 85 applicants had started on the programme,  60 of them graduates, the others non-graduates.

However, a total of 1,941 individuals had applied to join the programme, operated through the State training agency Fás, which also has 313 other unfilled vacancies.

It is understood that the requirement to have been unemployed for six months before becoming eligible to join the programme may be relaxed.

Currently, the maximum number of placements with a single employer is 10 or 10 per cent of the workforce, whichever is the smaller.

This limit may also be increased to permit a higher level of participation.

In addition, the community and voluntary sector could be deemed eligible for the scheme, as a further means of increasing participation.

Traditionally social welfare payments for jobseekers were conditional on the recipient actively seeking work.

This scheme waived that requirement as part of a move from “welfare for unemployment” to “welfare to work”.

The  Work  Placement Programme provides for two streams, for graduates and non-graduates, each consisting of an initial 1,000 places.

It is open to both public and private sector employers but the placement will not be provided to fill an existing vacancy nor to displace an existing employee.

The  graduate stream  is  for those who  before this year have attained  a  full  award  at  level seven or above on the National Framework of Qualifications  and who have been receiving job seeker’s allowance for the previous six months.

The  second  stream  is  open to all other individuals who have been receiving jobseekers’ allowance for the previous six months. Under this stream 250 places are ring-fenced for those under 25 years of age.