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.