There are growing concerns over whether the Government will be able to fulfil its pledge to provide guaranteed access to a job, further education or training for jobless young people within four months.
European leaders including Taoiseach Enda Kenny are due to meet in Paris later today to finalise details of a “youth guarantee”, in light of the jobs crisis facing young people across the continent.
Under the youth guarantee, which is due to commence next year, all under-25s must be given a good quality offer of employment, education or training within four months of becoming unemployed.
Youth unemployment in Ireland is almost 30 per cent, with more than 65,000 young people out of work.
Last month, the Government announced a reduced jobseeker’s rate of €100 a week for under-25s on the basis that it would provide a greater incentive to take up work, training or education supports.
But an unpublished Department of Social Protection document seen by The Irish Times indicates that key changes to the youth initiative will be needed in light of scarce resources including funding and training places.
Among the proposals being considered include extending the four-month deadline for access to jobs or training to six or nine months. It also states that targeting particular groups of young people – rather than all under-25s – is an option.
In addition, it states that focusing on certain elements – such as internships or employment subsidies – rather than a broad suite of interventions is another consideration.
The document was circulated to stakeholders involved in youth employment initiatives at a meeting in mid-October.
A spokesman for Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton last night said details of how a youth guarantee scheme will operate next year were still being finalised and will not be completed until December.
He said the intention was always that indebted nations such as Ireland would introduce the youth guarantee on a “phased basis”.
Figures contained in the document also indicate the Government will face a steep challenge in providing sufficient places for young people who are out of work. A total of 20,000 training or education places will be set aside next year for young people who are out of work.
However, latest figures estimate about 42,000 under-25s have been out of work for four months of more.
Ms Burton’s spokesman pointed out that young people would also be able to apply for thousands of additional places that are not ringfenced for young people, including the back to education allowance.
“These schemes do not have an upper age limit for qualifying. But it is expected that a large percentage of the places on these schemes will go to young people,” he said.
The youth initiative move is aimed at preventing the scourge of long-term unemployment blighting a new generation of young people whose prospects are thwarted as a result of the financial crisis.
Groups such as Youth Work Ireland – a federation of youth services across the State – estimate only half of the places needed for young people will be available next year.
“Whatever way you look at it, the numbers next year will fall far short of what’s required,” said Michael McLoughlin of Youth Work Ireland. “The result is that young people – who in many cases are doing their best and trying to find work or access training – will be penalised with lower welfare rates.”