Quinn says refusal to train could result in penalties

 

WELFARE RECIPIENTS who refuse retraining and education face financial sanctions, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has warned.

In announcing Solas, the new training and education authority which will replace Fás, he said: “The idea that someone can be permanently on the dole and doing nothing [to retrain] is unacceptable.”

Echoing recent comments from Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, Mr Quinn said there would be a “consequence in terms of payment” if someone refused to retrain.

The agency will replace Fás, whose reputation was mortally wounded by a succession of scandals involving extravagant expenses and poor corporate governance.

Solas is also designed to provide a more integrated approach to education and training; it is mandated to provide high-quality further education and training programmes to jobseekers and other learners.

Mr Quinn admitted yesterday that there had been far too much duplication in the provision of further education.

Minister of State Ciarán Cannon said the new agency would be much more flexible in responding to the skills needs of the economy.

The new authority will operate under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills. Solas will co-ordinate and fund the wide range of training and further education programmes around the country.

It is intended to fulfil a role for the further education and training sector similar to that exercised by the Higher Education Authority for higher education institutions.

Mr Cannon said Solas would ensure that further education and training programmes provided jobseekers and other learners with the skills needed for the new jobs in Ireland’s 21st-century labour market, as outlined in the National Skills Strategy.

Functions previously carried out by Fás will now be taken over by the the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Education and Skills.

Under the new arrangements, there will be considerably enhanced roles for the vocational education committees, which will play a key role in identifying the best programmes for job seekers.

Participants on current Fás and further education courses will not be affected by the creation of the new agency and will continue their courses under the new authority.

Welcoming the announcement, Fás chairman Michael Dempsey said: “This announcement provides a clear direction for the future of further education and skills training in the context of a difficult and changing labour market.

“It represents a very significant step forward at this pivotal time for Ireland.”

Solas: How it will work

FUNCTIONS previously carried out by Fás will now be taken over on a 50-50 basis by both the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Education.

The Department of Social Protection will take responsibility for programmes such as the community employment schemes, further education and training areas will go to the Department of Education and Skills.

The National Employment and Entitlements Service in the Department of Social Protection will provide a one-stop shop for people seeking to establish their benefit entitlements and those looking for a job and seeking advice on their training options.

Jobseekers will be referred to the VECs, who will play a key role in identifying the best education and training options.