My Department has an ongoing close relationship with several Government Departments, in particular the Department of Social and Family Affairs. In this connection, an official has recently been nominated to act specifically as a liaison person with the Department of Social and Family Affairs on matters of social inclusion, from a labour market perspective. In addition, there has traditionally existed between FÁS and the Department of Social and Family Affairs a relationship of close liaison and co-operation at central, regional and local levels in the provision of a range of services and supports to the unemployed, to employers and to the public generally.
FÁS and the Department through its executive agency, social welfare services, have recently acknowledged and copper-fastened the specifically close nature of this relationship by agreeing a new memorandum of understanding and framework for co-operation. This document commits the two organisations to harmonising their endeavours to increase the effectiveness of their services for unemployed people and other socially excluded groups and includes engaging with unemployed clients through the national employment service to ensure how their needs and the needs of employers in relation to guidance, referral and job match are best met. The level of co-operation between FÁS and DSFA can be seen most explicitly in the operation of activation measures under the national employment action plan, supports for persons with a disability who wish to avail of training interventions, efficient exchange of data to promote effective service delivery and the development of compatible IT systems.
The high support process is a particular example of co-operation. In January 2003 FÁS introduced a new high support process, HSP, for jobseekers who are suffering personal barriers to employment. A budget of €1.2 million was assigned for the piloting of the HSP in seven regions. Service providers including the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Education and Science, participate in and drive flexible local networks of relevant service providers to deliver progression routes to customers under the HSP. The objective of the HSP is to deliver progression routes to clients identified as having extreme barriers to employment. With the agreement of the participant, the identified employability barriers will be presented to a multi-agency case conferencing group. Participants identified for inclusion include long-term participants on the job initiative programme as well as job seekers referred to FÁS under the national employment action plan.
There are many other instances where FÁS is involved in co-operation on issues of general social inclusion. For example, FÁS works, in conjunction with the Department of Social and Family Affairs, to assist and provide employment supports to people with disabilities and lone parents in accessing employment. Additionally, Government collaboration includes working with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in meeting the needs of ex-prisoners and ex-offenders and in promoting child care initiatives to assist women returnees into the labour market.
FÁS also works with the Department of Health and Children to bridge the transition from rehabilitative training to vocational training for disabled people as part of their progression pathway into employment. Furthermore, early school leaver initiatives are developed and initiated jointly with FÁS and the Department of Education and Science.