Some back-to-work schemes run risk of creating greater dependency on welfare


A Government review of whether welfare payments are effective at getting people back into work has found some schemes run the risk of making people dependent on social assistance.

It also shows that a majority of the 25,000 people in receipt of the back-to-education allowance end up returning to the Live Register after they have completed their courses.

Overall, the Department of Social Protection report recommends making changes to eligibility conditions for some welfare payments – which cost the State almost €1 billion a year – to ensure they reach their full “activation” potential.

The findings are contained in A Review of Department of Social Protection Employment Support Schemes, completed last November.

The report, for example, recommends changes to the Community Employment scheme, which provides income support to about 23,000 people in mostly disadvantaged areas.

The scheme aims to enhance the employability of jobless people by providing work experience and training opportunities within their communities.

However, the report says the average duration of participation has risen over time and now greatly exceeds the one-year duration originally envisaged . Thus participants run the risk of becoming “institutionalised”, rather than being encouraged to progress into employment.

Time limits

It recommends that time limits be placed on participation and there be a greater focus on job-searching for participants well in advance of their exit.

The report also examines the back-to-education allowance, which costs the State about €200 million per year.

This allows people to complete second- or third-level education and to receive a relatively high rate of welfare payment in many cases.

International research indicates this kind of training provides the best long-run return of active labour market programmes.

But the report warns the allowance can make people too dependent on social welfare payments, without any obligation to search for a job. Figures show more than 60 per cent of people return to the Live Register after their course.

It also says there is a risk that the allowance may come to be seen as an “alternative funding stream” for traditional access to further and higher education courses among young people.

The report shows that internship programmes such as JobBridge are very effective. More than 50 per cent of participants in the scheme have secured employment. It cost the State just €8 million in 2011.