Thursday, 12 January 2012

Questions (140)

Simon Harris


137 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the rationale behind the exclusion of persons in receipt of the disability allowance from labour activation and further education programmes such as JobBridge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1655/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The National Internship Scheme provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals on the Live Register, in organisations in the private, public and community voluntary sectors. The scheme is limited to individuals who are currently on the Live Register and have been in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance/Benefit or are signing on for credits for at least 3 of the last 6 months.

My Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge scheme including its eligibility criteria on an ongoing basis. The eligibility to access the National Internship Scheme is based on the overall objective of labour market policy in ensuring a pathway to appropriate employment, training and education opportunities for those on the Live Register. It is important that as employment opportunities become available they are taken up by those on the Live Register. The structure for achieving this objective is through a reinvigorated National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) which currently provides the framework for engaging with the unemployed.

Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, the key objective of labour market policy and of the NEAP will be to keep those on the Live Register close to the Labour Market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. This will ensure that Live Register members availing of activation measures such as the National Internship Scheme will, while retaining social welfare unemployment payments and a top up allowance of €50, get an opportunity to engage in the workplace, get work experience and so be in a position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves.

For these reasons, it has been proposed as a matter of public policy that eligibility for the scheme be confined to those on the Live Register and in receipt of unemployment payments or signing for credits for 3 of the last 6 months. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time.

Individuals in receipt of Disability Payments may access a wide range of activation supports including the Work Placement Programme, which is designed to provide participants with valuable work experience, thereby improving their prospects of securing employment.