I am aware of the increase in the national live register in recent months and I am satisfied that the Department is monitoring the impact of this on local offices on an ongoing basis.
At present a network of 40 facilitators work closely at local level with social welfare customers, including those on the live register, in order to determine training and development needs. They arrange, through direct provision or jointly with other agencies, appropriate training and developmental programmes to equip recipients to progress to employment, enhance their parenting skills or otherwise improve their life opportunities. This service will shortly be enhanced with the assignment of an additional 30 facilitators over the remainder of 2008 as part of a wider activation programme provided for under the national development plan.
This social and economic participation programme is aimed at all people of working age regardless of the circumstances that led the person to require income maintenance. The cost of the programme will be €50 million over the duration. In the first three years €13 million will be invested, following which it will be reviewed and a decision made on the extent and content of the programme over the following years. The enhanced facilitation service will build on the Department's existing experience and income maintenance relationship with the people concerned, in co-operation with other relevant service providers such as FÁS, the VECs, the HSE and other local agencies. The vision is of a single transparent system with a primary focus on the customer and a route map starting at the first point of engagement with the Department.
For those on the live register, the main welfare to work measure is the national employment action plan, NEAP. Under this plan, people who are approaching three months on the live register are referred to FÁS for interview with a view to job placement or an offer of training. Almost 9,400 people were referred to FÁS under the NEAP in the first two months of 2008. Of these, 33%, or 3,060, have left the live register.
There is also a range of support services in place to assist unemployed people, particularly the long-term unemployed, lone parents and sickness-related welfare recipients to return to the active labour market either by taking up employment or becoming self-employed. These are provided through the operation of the back to education and back to work allowance schemes, the technical assistance and training grants and the PRSI exemption scheme.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
The activation and family services programme and the second chance education opportunities scheme also offer supports to social welfare customers and other disadvantaged persons to assist them to improve their employability and personal and family circumstances. At the end of March 2008, 43,000 people were availing of employment and training supports offered by the Department.
Overall, I am satisfied that existing arrangements, together with the proposed wider activation programme under the NDP, provide a satisfactory level of co-ordination to ensure that the needs of the most marginalised are met in a positive manner.