Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Questions (482)

Seán Haughey


482. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason the provision of the local employment service will be put out to public tender; the steps being taken to prepare for same; if she will ensure that there is a social benefit clause included in future tender documents in order that the service remains focused on the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48794/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Local Employment Services are contracted by my Department on an annual basis to provide activation services to those on the Live Register, as well as “drop-ins” to these services. These contracts are reviewed annually to ensure they are fit-for-purpose in the context of the Irish labour market, as well as providing value for money for taxpayers.

Indecon, in its reviews of the LES and Job Clubs published last January, recommended that the Department consider the introduction of multiannual contracts and a competitive procurement process for future provision of these services. The Department has also received legal advice to the effect that renewing the LES and Job Clubs contracts annually, without any movement towards competitive procurement, is no longer sustainable.

This, combined with the closure of the JobPath contracts to new referrals at the end of 2020, provides my Department with the opportunity to review all contracted public employment services. The aim is to design and introduce a comprehensive model that will incorporate various models of response and be fit for purpose for the Irish labour market from 2021 onwards.

In September, my Department published a Request for Tender for consultancy services, to provide advice, support and assist with the procurement of contracted public employment services in Ireland, covering the period 2021-2025. It is anticipated that the successful tenderer will provide the Department with a final report in the second quarter of 2020. In the interim, no changes will be made to the current contracting process for Local Employment Services for 2020.

As part of the review of Local Employment Services officials from my Department are currently holding a series of engagements with Local Employment Servicers and Job Clubs across the State in order to hear the views of those currently providing activation services on the ground on behalf of the Department. Their views will feed into the Department’s considerations in developing an appropriate contracted public employment service for the future.

I am on the record in recognising the valuable work performed by Local Employment Services. It is my view that, within the parameters of current procurement rules, any future procurement process give due recognition to the ability to deliver high quality, locally-based services.

Indeed, it is in everyone's' interests - jobseekers, service providers and the State - to ensure, insofar as it is possible, that experienced employment service providers with a strong community ethos continue to form a core part of our employment services infrastructure.