Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Questions (348)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

348. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which the issue of youth unemployment is being addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24745/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In the first instance, the Government’s primary strategy to reduce unemployment (including youth unemployment) is through policies to create the environment for a strong economic recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity. Economic recovery will underpin jobs growth. This strategy is working. Employment rose by 42,700 in the year to Q1 2014. Unemployment decreased by 33,900 (-11.6%) in the year to Q1 2014 bringing the total number of persons unemployed to 258,100. This is the seventh quarter in succession where unemployment has declined on an annual basis. The unemployment rate for 15-24 year olds (youth unemployment rate) decreased from 26.7% to 25.3% over the year to Q1 2014. Nevertheless, despite the progress that has been made, the Government recognises that youth unemployment remains unacceptably high. Hence, the Government also recognises the need for additional activation measures in the interim while the economy recovers. This is the rationale behind the Government’s Pathways to Work strategy and the Youth Guarantee, both of which are being led by the Department of Social Protection.

The Youth Guarantee initiative is specifically aimed at those under 25 who are unemployed with specific targeting of those who are either long-term unemployed or are most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed. The implementation of the Guarantee is a medium-term policy of the Irish Government. The guarantee of an offer of training, education or work experience for those aged 18-24 years after a four month period should be implemented on a phased basis. By the end of 2014, processes and programmes will be rolled out to ensure that all of those young unemployed people who need most support (i.e. are assessed as having a low probability of securing employment in the absence of support from the Public Employment Services) will receive a Youth Guarantee offer within four months.

In keeping with the Government’s broader focus on tackling long-term unemployment, we will first target interventions at those young people most at risk of long-term unemployment. In this way, the Department ensures that resources are prioritised to help those who are most in need. In 2012 some 56,000 young people joined the Live Register as wholly unemployed, and some 35,000 (63%) of these remained unemployed for four months or more. The target of the guarantee approach will, over time, be to reduce this level of persistent unemployment among young people. As part of the implementation of the Youth Guarantee it is proposed, subject to labour market and economic developments, to review the targeted nature of the Youth Guarantee offer, before the end of 2015.

Progress to Date on National Rollout

The Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan was published in January. It provides for over 28,000 programme opportunities for unemployed young people in 2014, as set out in the following table as an appendix to this statement. This figure excludes some 24,000 places provided for young people through PLC courses and apprenticeships. These PLC and apprenticeship places, together with the wide range of vocational third-level courses provided for the young, although not reserved for unemployed jobseekers, nevertheless contribute to the spirit of the guarantee.

In relation to the 28,500 places for unemployed young people, approximately 5,000 of these were taken up in the first four months of 2014. This is broadly in line with expectations, as some programmes such as the student intake on programmes such as the Vocational Training Opportunity Scheme (VTOS) and Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) are concentrated in September/October in line with the academic calendar. A new intake of young people to the second iteration of the Momentum programme for long-term unemployed jobseekers is also scheduled for later in the year.

In addition, it is important to note that some of the initiatives planned under the guarantee require primary legislation to allow positive discrimination on age grounds in the provision of employment services and supports. This legislation will be enacted as part of the Spring Social Welfare Bill due before the Oireachtas in June. Two employment schemes in particular, the Youth Guarantee developmental internship programme and the JobsPlus variant for young people, are dependent on this legislation being passed. The JobsPlus variant will be available as soon as possible after the relevant legislation has been cleared. The developmental internship which will include a pre-internship training period, will be in place no later than autumn. Passage of the legislation will also permit the introduction of earlier and more intensive engagement by INTREO with the young unemployed.

In relation to the 28,500 places for unemployed young people, approximately 5,000 of these were taken up in the first four months of the year. The following table displays the total number of under 25s who have started across the various programmes outlined in the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan in the first four months of 2014 .

Under 25 starters on Youth Guarantee programmes, End April 2014

Programme

2014 YTD

Note

Youthreach/CTC

499

Only CTC starters – Youthreach figures not available for 2014

JobBridge (including planned reserve)

1228

-

Tus

247

-

JobsPlus

362

As of 30th April 2014

Momentum*

13

-

BTEA (excl Momentum)**

Not available

-

BTWEA

61

Including 5 persons on STEA

VTOS

Not available

-

FAS/Solas

2441

Based on SST, Traineeship, Bridging & LTI starters YTD

CEB youth Entrepreneurship Training and Mentoring supports

-

Not yet commenced

CEB/MFI micro-loans for young people

-

Not yet commenced

International Work Experience and Training

-

Not yet commenced

Gateway

6

-

Community Employment

147

-

Total

5,004

Excluding where figures are not available