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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 18 May 1993

Vol. 430 No. 8

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Long-term Unemployment.

Richard Bruton


11 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the elements of his strategy to tackle long term unemployment and the target that he has set for the reduction in the numbers of long term unemployed.

The Programme for a Partnership Government sets out the steps that this Government is taking to improve employment and employment opportunities.

The response of the Government to the Culliton report on Employment through Enterprise published on 3 May, is directed at introducing structural changes which will make it more efficient and more attractive for business to do more business. It is only by doing more business and by doing it more successfully that firms can expand the numbers they employ. In addition the country enterprise partnership boards will further facilitate small business development.

The main element of the strategy to assist the long term unemployed is the social employment scheme and the community employment development programme which will provide opportunities for an average of 15,500 long term unemployed persons during the year compared with 12,000 in 1992. Exchequer funding of £97.311 million is being made available this year for this activity.

Subject to the social employment scheme being eligible for European Community Funding under the Community Support Framework for 1994 to 1999 and to the general budgetary position, it may be possible to increase participation levels still further next year.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that the area based strategy to combat long term unemployment is operating in 12 designated areas. An interim report to the Central Review Committee on the evaluation of the strategy in 1991 and 1992 undertaken by the Combat Poverty Agency was published yesterday.

I am disappointed the Minister in his reply has not set a target for a reduction in the number of long term unemployed. Is he committed to the target he set of reducing long term unemployment to 25,000 over the next decade? Would he agree that none of the proposals for the long term unemployed has been acted on? For example, would he agree that the £80 per week subsidy, promised in the Programme for Government, has not been introduced and that FÁS received an instruction earlier this year to cut participation in the CEDP and the SES which, hopefully, has now been reversed? Finally, will the Minister not agree that the Culliton approach will not result in "trickle down" opportunities to the long term unemployed and that if he is to realise his target something more is needed?

Let me start with the last of the four or five questions. We do recognise that Culliton proposed the establishment of a very positive framework within which business could function, that the level of net additional job creation would be limited and that the group least likely to benefit in the short term would be the long term unemployed. Second, the changes in the CEDP and the instructions, which were subject to budgetary adjustment, have been confirmed and clarified. The original retention of secondary benefits has been confirmed and this has been well known for some time.

Was it reversed and clarified?

It was reversed and clarified within a matter of days of the original decision. It has been clearly indicated to FÁS that because of the changes, we are on target for 15,500 participants this year. Those are the two main points. Perhaps the Deputy would remind me of the other points.

Why have we not seen the special scheme for long term unemployed at £80 per week which was designed to try to get some of the new job opportunities for the long term unemployed?

That is a separate matter.

It is not, if you read the question.

I read all such questions very carefully. The Deputy is referring to a particular matter.

Relating to long term unemployment.

For a special category.

The commitment in relation to the programme is subject to ESF funding becoming available in 1994 and 1999 and the Deputy is referring to the Programme for Government which will take four to five years to implement fully.

So the long term unemployed may wait.