Priority Questions

Exceptional Needs Payments

Willie O'Dea

Question:

1. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the total amount of savings that she expects to achieve from the abolition of exceptional needs payments for religious ceremonies; the number who received such payments in 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19152/13]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance, SWA, scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment, ENP, to help meet essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. The Department provides money for clothing for adults and children in exceptional circumstances. The Government has provided €47.6 million for the exceptional needs payment scheme in 2013. The special payments are payable at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments are targeted at those most in need of assistance.

A review of the guidelines on exceptional needs payments was carried out for the Department by a working group made up of community welfare service staff. One of the recommendations from the review was to address the different approaches taken, in different areas, in relation to the payment of exceptional needs payment in respect of religious ceremonies, mainly communions and confirmations, and to ensure that the SWA scheme is responding to financial need rather than to meet expected and foreseeable costs associated with such occasions. In 2011, only 25 payments for religious ceremonies issued in the north west of the country with more than 5,600 payments having issued in the eastern region, including Dublin. Average payments also differed for this period and ranged from between €189 in the north east to over €300 in the east of the country.

The working group recommended that payment of the allowance specifically in respect of religious ceremonies should cease. This recommendation has been implemented by the Department and it is expected that this measure will achieve annual savings of €1.5 million.

This recommendation does not affect the discretion available to officers administering the scheme in issuing an exceptional needs payment to assist an individual or household in a particular hardship situation which may arise. In 2013 to date, the Department has assisted some 600 families with costs towards children's clothing under the exceptional needs payment scheme at a cost of approximately €60,000.

The number of payments and amounts paid in respect of religious ceremonies in the years 2010 to 2012 is provided in the following table.

Year

Number of Payments

Amount

2010

12,660

€3.25m

2011

13,970

€3.42m

2012

12,460

€1.50m

The relevant figure given by the Minister is €1.5 million. This is the amount the Government will save by depriving 14,000 families, many of whom are living in destitution, others on the verge of destitution, of this particular payment, out of a total budget of €56,472 million. I put it to the Minister that it is disingenuous to say people can have access to the exceptional needs payment in view of the fact that the Government slashed the it last year by €6 million in the budget. The Minister mentioned a figure of €46 million but failed to mention that the amount was €52 million the previous year. The reduction took place at a time when the newspapers carried reports of community welfare officers referring their clients to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and other charities. While the Minister has made various references to lavish payments and dresses costing €300, etc., will she agree that the cap introduced last year of just over €100 per family does not allow for this type of lavish expenditure? Will the Minister review the exceptional needs payment budget with a view to increasing it or has she any intention of restoring the payment?

When the former staff of the HSE, the community welfare officers, came into the Department of Social Protection about a year and a half ago, they made many comments on how they could spend scarce money to the best advantage of people in need, both individuals and families. They came up with this proposal and pointed out that in the north west - Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim - such payments were almost unknown. Payments were made in exceptional cases where there was an unforeseen need in the family whereas in the east, particularly in the Dublin area, the average payment per child had increased to €300. They recommended that we review the payment and ultimately phase it out so as to provide for unforeseen needs. In respect of a number of events, people are aware of them in advance. We are spending almost €50 million on exceptional needs this year. The Deputy can sniff at €50 million and throw his hands up at it but the fact is that the party of which the Deputy is a member left this country in a state of such economic difficulty-----

The Minister is giving a history lesson. She did not say much about that during the election campaign when she promised the sun, moon and stars.

The Minister to conclude, please.

-----that we had to find savings because we were relying on others.

Among the poorest of the poor.

Is that Labour Party policy?

The fact is we have maintained spending on social welfare at €20.3 billion. We have done that in the face of the enormous difficulties in which the Fianna Fáil Party left the country.

The community welfare officers advised the Minister how to spend scarce money. She was not too worried about scarce money while on this side of the House when she could find money for everything under sun. It is a mean cut and it should be reversed.

Why did the Minister wait until the eve of first holy communion and confirmation, with the result that people did not have the chance to plan ahead? She spoke about expenditure coming to an average payment of €300 in the east and nothing in the north west. The fact remains that since last year the cap was €110. Will the Minister agree with me that no one can be particularly lavish with €110? She has made a statement that people can shop around and buy clothes at a reasonable price. They might be reasonably priced for the likes of the Minister, but they are not for the people whom the Labour Party was supposed to and elected to represent. These prices are out of their range and the Minister is out of touch.

It is difficult to find money in the challenging economic situation left to us by the Deputy’s party.

A situation in which the Minister was more than willing to take over.

However, I have found nearly €50 million for special needs payments. The Deputy can scoff all he likes.

The Minister has slashed special needs payments.

The Deputy has a cheek.

The Minister is a joke. She has some neck.

Fianna Fáil-----

Protect child benefit - vote Labour.

This year the Department of Social Protection will spend €20.3 billion. That is a figure with a lot of noughts in case Deputy Willie O’Dea had not noticed.

I understand that.

It comes from hard-working taxpayers’ tax and PRSI payments.

The Minister was not too worried about spending hard-working taxpayers’ money when she was on this side of the House.

I will not apologise to the Deputy for having to make a decision to target that budget of €20.3 billion as best I can among older people, parents with children-----

Did the Government target the rich? Why did it not target those earning over €100,000?

-----and the 250,000 people who, unfortunately, lost their jobs owing to Fianna Fáil’s policies after 2008.

The Government’s solution is to crush the poor. Is that Labour Party policy?

We are getting people back to work.

Get off the stage.

Some 250,000 jobs were lost under Fianna Fáil.

On a point of order, how many people has the Government got back to work?

That is not a point of order.

On the other hand, we are getting people back to work. Under Fianna Fáil, 250,000 jobs were lost.

The Minister is a bluffer. The unemployment rate is the same.

For the first time since 2008, we have got considerable numbers of people back to work.

I ask the Minister to move on to Parliamentary Question No. 2.

How many are back in employment?

The Deputy has his legacy and has to live with it.

Tell that to the Minister's friends in the media.

May I move on to the next question?

Labour Party members might be fooled into believing that, but no one else is.

Come on, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

I ask Deputy Willie O'Dea to stop, please.

I will wait until he finishes. If he likes, I will sit down and let him rant about Fianna Fáil. Perhaps he wants to apologise. His apology is long overdue and I have not heard it from him yet. He should apologise to taxpayers and hard-working people.

Protect child benefit - vote Labour.

He is getting excited because the Ard-Fheis is near.

It would take a lot more than the Minister to excite me.

Social Welfare Code

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

2. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason retained firefighters who are entitled to social welfare payments when they are not working in other employment are still having payments withheld from them. [19161/13]

Retained firefighters are entitled to a jobseeker’s payment in respect of days they are engaged in firefighting or training. They are, however, required to satisfy the statutory conditions for the receipt of a jobseeker’s payment of being available for and genuinely seeking work. A working group has reported to me and I am pleased to inform the House that I have decided to advance provision within the jobseeker’s schemes to cater for these workers. In arriving at this decision I have been particularly mindful of the vital service they provide, particularly in rural communities where the fire service is almost exclusively staffed by retained personnel.

Legislation in this area is being drafted for inclusion, as approved by the Government, in the forthcoming Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013. For this reason, I will not go into the specifics of the planned provisions. However, it is my intention that the legislation will allow retained firefighters reasonable and a fair level of access to the schemes in the future. The legislation will take effect from commencement of the relevant provisions of the Bill.

I thank all Deputies and Senators who have been in contact with me on this issue for their patience and forbearance, as well as my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, for his input. I intend to write to relevant Members in the near future outlining my proposals in more detail.

It is welcome news that progress has been made in this area and I hope we will see the detail of the arrangement soon. It was a very simple anomaly. On the one hand, the Department wanted to comply with its rules and regulations, but, on the other, this vital service was being undermined by social welfare inspectors and the social welfare appeals office. Is it the Minister intention to make this change as soon as possible? Will she inform social welfare inspectors and the social welfare appeals office to put the various cases in question on hold? In the cases in which recipients took a case to appeal and lost, will they be re-examined?

The practice regarding retained firefighters has its roots in an administrative decision in 1972 to disregard any day of firefighting or training when determining their entitlement to jobseeker’s benefit or allowance. There was the proximity rule for those living close to the fire station. When this matter was brought to my attention several months after I had taken office, I sought to ensure such an unsatisfactory arrangement would be brought to an end. To achieve this, I had to have regard to both the integrity of the social welfare system and the fact that special arrangements had operated for firefighters since the 1970s. I have the Government’s approval to place these arrangements on a sound legislative footing and the specifics are being worked through. The legislation in question will have to be drafted and sent to the Attorney General’s office and the Parliamentary Counsel. I have sought the Government’s approval in this regard because I believe the social good of maintaining this service for the safety and protection of citizens justifies the special arrangements in place. I am satisfied the right outcomes will be achieved with the planned legislation.

I hope this decision will not impact negatively on the 800 firefighters who avail of the scheme in question. I hope they will be employed in the future rather than being dependent on this payment.

Jobs Protection

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

3. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the situation in the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council owned Ballyogan recycling depot, where a number of persons have been taken on to the JobBridge scheme which has resulted in other workers being displaced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19151/13]

The Department is in receipt of a complaint regarding the issue raised by the Deputy and is currently examining the matter.

All allegations are taken extremely seriously; displacement of existing workers by JobBridge interns is not allowed under the terms and conditions of the JobBridge scheme, is a flagrant abuse of the scheme and is not a practice that can be condoned. Any host organisation which is found to be displacing paid staff in contravention of the scheme rules will be disbarred from further access to the scheme. In addition, all existing internships with the host organisation will cease.

I understand that the facility referred to in the question is operated by a private firm operating under contract with the local authority.

The complaint made is currently being investigated by the Department and I am advised that an investigating officer has been in contact with both the individual who raised the complaint and with the host organisation. I expect a report on the matter to be finalised shortly.

The whole purpose of JobBridge is to encourage job creation and to incentivise employers to offer opportunities to unemployed people. It runs counter to the logic of the scheme that it should be used to displace existing employees onto the live register and I will not tolerate such behaviour. In fact, the scheme has been designed and is operated with a number of controls designed to minimise the risk of such behaviour. The host organisation may not provide an internship under the scheme to an individual with whom they have an existing employment relationship. The host organisation cannot advertise internships if it has paid employment vacancies in the area of activity in which the internship is offered. The total number of internships that may be availed of by a host organisation is limited to one in ten of its workforce or, in the case of very large employers, an absolute limit of 200 staff. Organisations must abide by a six-month cooling-off period between internships; in other words, an organisation cannot roll over internships on a continuous basis. This limits the ability of an internship to substitute for a permanent role. The host organisation must provide coaching and mentoring. All applications from host organisations to advertise internships are reviewed and assessed under the criteria set by the Department's national contact centre in Edenderry.

We intensively monitor internships. Since JobBridge was launched, 1,700 monitoring visits have been conducted. All complaints are taken up. In a period in which we had approximately 13,500 people on internships, we received some 275 complaints, and 15 host organisations that were found to have breached the scheme have been excluded from further participation.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

I am satisfied that the design of the scheme, together with the intensive monitoring regime operated by the Department, minimises the level of displacement and acts to protect the interests of host organisations, interns and the wider labour market.

When JobBridge was introduced some of us were sceptical about the claims the Government made for it and believed that, against a wider background of austerity and cuts that were crippling employment prospects, this scheme could be abused by employers to displace existing jobs. The instance I have cited for the Minister is a serious example of those fears being realised. I refer to a private company that is employed by one of our councils, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, with a major contract for waste collection in the county. One week it has people working for it whom it has to pay; the next week, those people are gone and replaced with so-called interns that the State is paying for, subsidising a private company.

Will the Deputy ask a question?

One of the employees, Brian, stated:

I was working in Ballyogan for one year and 11 months and I was told on Wednesday, 27 March that I would no longer be needed on 1 April. Now there is an intern doing my job. This intern is being paid from the Department of Social Protection and I had to sign on too, costing the State an extra €238 every week while Oxigen are laughing all the way to the bank.

That is a very serious example of abuse of the scheme, and there is widespread anecdotal evidence of that.

Deputy, I want to call the Minister and then I will come back to you. Do you want to ask another supplementary question after this one? We have only six minutes for this question.

What does the Minister intend to do about that, and what measures will she put in place to ensure it cannot happen again?

I have just outlined for the Deputy an extensive set of measures that are in place. In view of the fact that more than 13,000 people who have taken part in JobBridge, the number of complaints received have been extremely low in number. Where we have found that there is good cause to the complaint, as I told the Deputy, 15 host organisations have been excluded from further participation in JobBridge as a consequence of those control activities. We have a series of monitoring visits in place. More than 1,700 monitoring visits have taken place so far to different organisations that have hosted JobBridge internships.

More importantly, we asked Indecon consultants to conduct very detailed research into the outcome of JobBridge, and the good news, which I am sure the Deputy will want to hear, is that over 60% of the people who acquired a JobBridge internship have gone on to secure further employment. That is a placement rate far in excess of most schemes seeking to provide employment for people who have been out of the workforce for a long period of time or who have acquired qualifications. Unfortunately, some of the people on the JobBridge schemes have been extraordinarily qualified, bright graduates who, because of the current state of the labour market, have found it difficult to get a first job or experience in their particular field. The feedback from a significant number of people who have taken on an internship and also from the employers that have hosted the internships has been for the most part extremely positive.

The person I quoted complained to the Department of Social Protection on 21 March. It is now 24 April. The Minister says she is considering the complaint made. How long does it take to consider this matter and adjudicate on it? It appears to me to be a cut and dried case of abuse by, I repeat, a company that has a major contract with a local authority and is profiting from the contract that has been given to it by a public authority. There have been many other instances that I know have been cited to the Minister, including the use of interns for checkout jobs in Donegal and jobs in SuperValu. I understand Deputy Halligan mentioned to the Minister furniture firms in Waterford that close down one week, make people redundant, tell them to depend on the insolvency service to get their redundancy payment and reopen the next week doing the same job with interns in the jobs of the employees they had let go.

I have to call the Minister.

More needs to be done to monitor this scheme. Will there be prosecutions of firms that have abused the scheme?

I want to reassure the Deputy that we have an extensive system of monitoring in place, which the Deputy will find on the JobBridge site. I do not want to comment on the detail of the case, although the Deputy has made many allegations. I have asked an official of the Department to examine the complaints that have been made. We have had to go back to the organisation about which the Deputy has made the allegations.

They all came from employees.

Even in Trotskyite politics it is possible-----

It has nothing to do with Trotsky. It is about four people who lost their jobs.

Deputy, the person in possession should be allowed to finish.

The Minister should have some respect for them.

I have every respect for them. That is why we have had 13,000 people successfully taking part in this scheme. As I told the Deputy, where allegations are made we take them extremely seriously. We are taking what the Deputy said extremely seriously but he must appreciate that we have to investigate whether the complaint is well-founded.

Talk to the employees.

The Deputy has a letter from an individual. It concerns a company which, as he said, is in some kind of contractual relationship with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. It is appropriate to give an opportunity for the matter to be examined. I do not want to say anything else about the specific case, for reasons I believe the Deputy would appreciate.

Disability Allowance Payments

Willie O'Dea

Question:

4. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans for the future of the domiciliary care allowance and the disability allowance in view of the advisory group on social welfare and taxation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19153/13]

At the outset I want to put on record that the Government fully recognises that the domiciliary care allowance, DCA, scheme represents a very important support to parents and guardians who live with and care for children with a disability. Likewise, the disability allowance, DA, represents an important income support to people who are unfit for work. In this context I am pleased that two important reports have been published in recent times.

DCA is now being paid in respect of 26,000 children, an increase of more than 3,000 since the Department took over responsibility for the scheme from the HSE in April 2009. Spending on the scheme and the respite care grant, which is automatically paid to all recipients, has increased from €138 million to €145 million between 2010 and 2012. In 2012, DA was being paid in respect of 120,000 customers at a cost of €1.09 billion.

The second report of the advisory group on tax and social welfare on the issue of the 2012 budget proposals regarding domiciliary allowance and domiciliary care allowance, DCA, was published by Government on 10 April 2013. At the same time, the report of the review group on the operation of the DCA scheme was also published. These reports make a number of policy recommendations which make a valuable contribution to the policy debate in regard to young people with disabilities.

My colleagues in government and I will consider these findings, taking into account future developments in terms of the budgetary and fiscal situation as well as other work under way. The advisory group is currently examining the issue of working age supports and, as part of this work, the group will consider the appropriate payment rates and the equitable treatment of all people of working age.

Thank you Minister.

Just let me say, a wide group of interested organisations were represented, including the Carers Association, Down Syndrome Ireland, Irish Autism Action, Special Needs Parents Association, Inclusion Ireland, the Midlands Regional Forum of People with Disabilities, and parent representatives of the DCA Warriors group. They have all been consulted extensively and involved in the report.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The DCA review group included representatives from a number of Departments, the National Disability Authority, representatives from the NGO umbrella group representing the Carers Association, Downs Syndrome Ireland, Irish Autism Action, Special Needs Parents Association, Inclusion Ireland, the Midlands Regional Forum of People with Disabilities, and parent representatives in the DCA Warriors group. The administrative recommendations made in the review report will result in an improvement in the level of service provided to our customers and will assist in ensuring that those people who meet the qualifying conditions for the payment receive it in a timely manner. It is my intention that the administrative improvements will be implemented quickly.

Since the report has been published, work is already under way to put the implementation group in place. Forms and communications are being reviewed and in addition, the technical changes necessary to support the new administrative processes have been defined and are included in a tender to go to the marked within the next few weeks.

There are very strong commitments to the disabled in the manifestos of both Government parties to the disabled. There are also strong commitments in the programme for Government. However, since the Government has taken office, we have seen the disability awareness initiative reduced by 72% and the Department of Education and Skills has reduced funding for students with disabilities by 20%. I could mention also the respite care grant, the mobility allowance and funding for adaptation of houses for the disabled, which has been reduced by 40%. I could go on and on.

Last year, the proposal was mooted in the budget to remove the right to apply for disability allowance from people in receipt of domiciliary care allowance, once they reached the age of 16. That would have resulted in a 59% drop in income for people who qualify for disability allowance at age 16 between the ages of 16 and 18 and would amount to a drop of 42% for 18 to 21 year olds. Is this proposal back on the agenda or can we reassure the people who have been contacting us about this, parents of children with cerebral palsy and extreme autism etc. that it is firmly off the agenda?

If the Deputy is familiar with parents who have children with a disability, he will understand there are a number of different issues that arise.

The issue of income support is extremely important, but so is the issue that children with a disability should be facilitated to remain in education and training, particularly as teenagers, and then, hopefully, move on to employment. We must consider how best to spend funding for families with children with a disability and how to provide services and for good quality training and educational opportunities that will give those children a good chance of participation in the labour force, whether part-time or full-time.

The work and contributions of the organisations I listed in my response, representing families and children with disabilities, was particularly valuable. Based on their advice, we are currently in the process of updating the different systems. For instance, people now get three months notice of any kind of review and a further period of two months before implementation. We have also taken advice from people who have made submissions to the review group with regard to the design of the systems and their application. I am very grateful the organisations involved have contributed their expertise and knowledge to the Department. We will continue to commit to significant funding, but with the object of enhancing both income and services, including education and training of the best quality we can provide.

The reasoning underlying the report's primary suggestion is that the receipt of disability allowance at the age of 16 would encourage people to leave school and become full-time participants of the social welfare system. There is not a shred of evidence to support that. All the anecdotal evidence available to me points in the opposite direction. What sort of committee would come up with a suggestion that people with cerebral palsy or spina bifida in receipt of domiciliary care allowance will suddenly leave the education system? Many of them would be leaving the education system anyway at 16.

When the Government decided to withdraw this proposal last year, the Taoiseach said the "Government did not get it right". He also said: "This is a case where the Government has listened". If this proposal was not right last year, how is it right now? Has the Government stopped listening?

I welcome the contribution of the Deputy to the debate and Fianna Fáil's interest in this area.

We never proposed a change in this regard.

I hope Fianna Fáil continues to take an interest in this area. I do not know how aware of the situation the Deputy is or how familiar he is with it. The issue for many parents of children with a disability is that although, thankfully, these children are very integrated into education, particularly in their early years, many children with different levels of disability would like to continue to be involved in training and education. Many of them also want to be able to take part in paid employment.

As a society, it should be our ambition not simply to provide income support for families and individuals with a disability, but to provide structures which provide for services that allow people to participate fully in society as adults to the extent they wish and for which they have the capacity.

How will this proposal bring that about? That has nothing to do with my question.

We must look at the question of people's abilities rather than, as the Deputy is doing, talking in terms of the person's disability.

I am talking on behalf of parents.

I would like to invite Fianna Fáil to start looking at ability as well as disability.

How does the Minister's proposal do that? She cannot give any reassurance in that regard.

Job Initiatives

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

5. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a jobs club service funded by FÁS has been withdrawn from Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin; and the reason jobs club workers have not been paid for weeks worked or being offered enhanced redundancy as would be the norm in such circumstances. [19162/13]

Jobs clubs provide a valuable service to supplement the Department’s own employment services, particularly with regard to the provision of job search and CV preparation workshops for unemployed people. Jobs clubs accepted approximately 14,000 referrals of individual jobseekers from the Department in 2012. In addition, they provided a walk-in resource service to people in their community. The annual budget for the support of jobs clubs in 2013 is €6 million, an increase of 5% on the 2012 allocation. I have had the opportunity to visit a number of jobs clubs and believe well run jobs clubs have an important role to play. I commend a number of the jobs clubs I have had the honour to visit.

The Department has annual contracts for the provision of jobs club services with over 40 companies. Each contract is reviewed on an annual basis. As part of the review process, the Department undertakes a structured appraisal of that provider's performance with each element of provider performance being scored against a common rating scale used to assess all jobs clubs.

The elements scored include conformance with good corporate governance and achievement of service and progression outcomes.

Following an evaluation of Bawnogue Unemployed Group Limited, the Department did not believe it could justify the renewal of the contract. It notified Bawnogue Unemployment Group Limited of this decision in January 2013. The annual contract with Bawnogue Unemployed Group Limited subsequently expired on 29 March 2013. It was fully funded by the Department up to that date. The Department is considering alternative arrangements for the provision of jobs club services in the area. It is delivering employment services in the area through the local employment service's Bawnogue office and the Department’s employment service office in Clondalkin. As the Department is not the employer, salaries and redundancy payments are matters for the company to address. Obviously, statutory redundancy payments are handled by the Department.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

If a company or employer is unable to pay statutory redundancy to its employees, it is open to them to avail of the Department's redundancy and insolvency payments scheme, details of which are available on the Department’s website. The Department is committed to the provision of quality jobs club services. It will continue to evaluate jobs clubs to ensure the funds disbursed to fund their services are properly and effectively discharged to provide effective services to jobseekers and facilitate the continuous improvement of the service.

The vital part of the Minister's reply was her reference to the State not being the employer in this case. I remind her that the State often sets the terms, conditions and rates of pay in jobs clubs and most other community employment schemes. Will the Minister examine the case of Bawnogue Unemployed Group Limited? The Bawnogue area needs a service of this nature because it has a high level of unemployment. I will not say whether it needs the existing service or another service. A service urgently needs to be provided by Intreo or some other agency. The Department needs to address an issue that has arisen in this context. One of the group's workers, Martin Walsh, has been occupying its premises because he has not been given the enhanced redundancy he deserves. That needs to be addressed. Some of the workers at the DBD jobs club in Bawnogue have not been paid. Can the Minister give a guarantee that a jobs club service, or its equivalent, will be in place in this part of Clondalkin within weeks if not days? It is needed in light of the huge job of work this group has done over the years.

As the Deputy knows, I am very familiar with the Bawnogue area. I am aware that there is a significant unemployment problem in Bawnogue and other parts of the greater Clondalkin area. At the moment, the local employment service and the Department's office in Clondalkin are providing services to people in the area who are seeking to get back to work. I will revert to the Deputy when our examination of the situation has been completed. I understand that two people were working under the most recent contract at Bawnogue Unemployed Group Limited and that the total value of the annual contract was €115,000.

Returning to the contractual situation, I should mention that a number of the organisations that provide services to the Department of Social Protection and other Departments, including the organisation in this case, are private limited companies. The responsibility of the Department relates to statutory redundancy. If the company that was employing these two people was unable to meet its redundancy commitments, the Department of Social Protection would cover that under the insolvency arrangements. I am not familiar with the details of this case. The Deputy might like to provide them to me privately. We hope to have another service provided quite soon.

I thank the Minister for assuring me that another service will be provided quite soon. The State sets and evaluates the framework for pay, hours and everything else in the case of organisations which are funded in this way. When it withdraws that money and two jobs are lost as a consequence, the role it plays must involve more than providing statutory funding. This issue is coming up more frequently. It came up when community development projects were being squeezed. The State told these companies to become limited companies in the first place.

I do not particularly want to discuss private affairs in public.

If the Deputy wants to advise me of any other circumstances, I will be happy to hear from him. Many economists are quite critical of jobs clubs, community employment schemes and other efforts to help people back to work and to provide services in communities. In fact, most of the reports on jobs clubs are very positive. The Department has an annual review process. It was decided not to renew the annual payment of €115,000 in respect of the Bawnogue service, unfortunately, following an objective review of the service that was carried out on the basis of certain criteria.

As I mentioned, I have increased the overall budget for jobs clubs this year. They are very helpful for people in areas like CV preparation. As the Deputy knows, if one has been working for 15 years, one will not have drawn up a CV for 15 years. Jobs clubs allow people to meet other people who may unfortunately have become unemployed, to get to know people who are going back to work and to make contacts. All of that jobs club activity has certainly been very positive. I will revert to the Deputy on this individual case.