Siptu warns 300 jobs at risk over reforms to local employment services

Department of Social Protection plays down concerns over new tendering process

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys: Siptu wrote her a letter saying: “The current model has served communities and jobseekers extremely well since it was established in 1995, building relationships with local employers and tailoring its operation to local circumstances.” Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys: Siptu wrote her a letter saying: “The current model has served communities and jobseekers extremely well since it was established in 1995, building relationships with local employers and tailoring its operation to local circumstances.” Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

 

A new Government tender for the expansion of local employment services could put in jeopardy about 300 jobs in existing community organisations that assist people in securing work, the trade union Siptu has said.

The staff work in job clubs and other local services, assisting unemployed people with supports ranging from literacy to interview skills to job placements. While the services are funded by the Department of Social Protection, employees of these providers are not public servants.

Siptu said the Government had recently tendered for the provision of specialised consultancy services to advise and assist with the design and procurement of a new model of contracted public employment services.

It said that at present many services were delivered by local development companies, known as local employment services, community partnerships or rural social schemes. It said these operated on a “costs-met” basis.

Siptu said the Government’s tender was focused on a “costs-bid” model of service. This had been shown elsewhere not to work for jobseekers or the community, “as it leads to a race to the bottom”.

Squeezed out

The union maintained if the new model was introduced in full, the existing local and community providers would be squeezed out, putting at risk about 300 jobs.

In a letter to the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, Siptu sector organiser Jane Boushell said: “The current model has served communities and jobseekers extremely well since it was established in 1995, building relationships with local employers and tailoring its operation to local circumstances. It does not just cater for those in receipt of a social welfare payment, but also for those wishing to return to the workforce following a period spent in other pursuits such as homemaking or caring duties. It is thus more inclusive than any programme based solely on cost.”

The Department of Social Protection said employment services have been contracted by the State to external providers since the 1990s and it played down the concerns raised by Siptu.

‘Request for tender’

“As part of the July stimulus, the Government committed to increase resources dedicated to the delivery of employment services both within the department’s own Intreo service and in addition to expand the coverage of the local employment services to areas not currently covered by existing providers.

“This request for tender, which is required to comply with EU procurement rules, will have no impact on the contracts of existing providers in other areas and it is hoped and expected that local community and voluntary organisations will respond to the request for tender and offer to provide services in their areas of operation.”

The department said the current contracts for all contracted public employment services would expire at the end of 2021

It said current service providers were free to tender for new contracts for employment services and it would encourage them to do so.

“The procurement process will place a strong emphasis on the quality of services to be provided and it is expected that the current providers will be in a strong position to respond to the request for tenders when they issue.”