My Department is now at an advanced stage in its first phase of procuring new employment services. This phase involves the procurement of regional employment services for seven counties in the Midlands and North-West across four lots, which aims to be operational from January 2022.
Procurement for the second phase, which will roll out services across the State, will commence shortly. This phase will see the commencement of new employment services in July 2022.
Two independent consultants’ reports commissioned by my Department recommended that Job Clubs and LES employment provision are combined into a single service provision in order to reduce duplication and to deliver a more efficient and effective employment service. The new Regional Employment Services has been developed in accordance with these recommendations and focuses on the provision of tailored employment services to those furthest from the labour market. The services currently provided by Job Clubs are included in the Phase one Regional Employment Service RFT that was published last May.
All Job Clubs have contracts in place until the end of 2021 and excluding the Job Clubs operating in the seven counties under phase one of the procurement process, all other Job Clubs have been offered contracts until the end of June 2022.
While several Job Club contract holders took part in bids for this new service in phase one, not all current contract holders in these counties either took part or were successful. In relation to the unsuccessful contract holders, it is my understanding that the successful bidders are engaging with these staff with a view to offering suitable employment with appropriate terms. My understanding is that discussions are ongoing and it would be inappropriate of me to make further comment in relation to the circumstances of the individuals concerned. However, this is a very positive development and will deliver the best possible option of retaining the expertise of those with long experience of engaging with the long-term unemployed.
In relation to Phase Two, my Department will continue to work to minimise barriers for existing service providers, including Job Clubs, in tendering for the new employment service model. However, existing contract holders are strongly encouraged to collaborate with other similar organisations to submit joint tenders under Phase Two. Should the possibility of redundancies arise the primary responsibility in this area rest with the employer. Should any affected employer require the services of my Department in respect of redundancy payments these services will be available. However, I would encourage existing providers to work together to submit high quality bids under the next phase of procurement for the Regional Employment Service.