Unemployment group ‘struggling’ to cope with demand

Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed received 9,000 queries in 2015

 

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) is “struggling” to cope with demand for its services after it received 9,000 contacts from people last year.

Speaking at the organisation’s annual delegate conference in Dublin on Wednesday, the organisation’s coordinator John Stewart said its two full-time and three part-time staff are under pressure due to the volume of queries about unemployment-related issues.

“We have a very small unit, two full-time and three part-time workers. We’re endeavouring to respond to everybody... we’re struggling, staff are under huge pressure, that’s always the case,” he said.

“We’d like to employ more people directly to deliver those services but that’s been an ongoing issue. The organisation’s finances have unfortunately been reduced over the last number of years, we’ve taken some major hits in terms of funding,” he added.

The meeting also heard from INOU chairwoman Ann Fergus who expressed hope that a resurgent construction sector will provide opportunities for “tens of thousands” of people previously employed in the area to get back to work.

She sounded an optimistic note about an upswing in employment figures in 2015, and noted that many people are now moving into full-time positions rather than casual work.

Mr Stewart welcomed proposed changes to the JobBridge internship scheme which were recently announced by new Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, and said any new iteration should include reduced hours and better pay for participants.

“There are potentially good elements that can be retained but I welcome the review. For too long now the scheme has been devalued by the very clear evidence that some employers are exploiting people.

“I think there is still room for a programme that is targeted for people who are longer-term unemployed, people who might otherwise not get a look in,” he said.

In his keynote speech to the conference, Social Justice Ireland director Seán Healy said jobless individuals should not be blamed for their employment status, and echoed calls from INOU members for a reversal of cuts to unemployment benefits imposed during the recession.