Long-term unemployment has been reduced dramatically during the past seven years. In 1998 long-term unemployment amounted to 63,500, which represented 3.9% of the labour force. By 2002 the numbers had fallen by over 40,000 to 21,600, 1.2% of the labour force. There was a small increase to 26,900 in 2003, a rate of 1.4%. The EU average rate, by contrast, is 3%.
In support of the NAPS strategy, FÁS is providing a range of training and employment programmes for the long-term unemployed. These include skills training, foundation training and employment programmes such as community employment and the jobs initiative. FÁS statistics show that in the first 11 months of 2003, a total of 27,954 long-term unemployed persons started FÁS programmes.
To increase the focus on long-term unemployed persons, FÁS introduced two new initiatives in 2003. The employment action plan process, involving referral by the Department of Social and Family Affairs of unemployed persons to FÁS for help in gaining access to training or employment, was extended to long-term unemployed persons on a regional basis. By the end of the year, the process was operational in six of the eight FÁS regions, including Dublin. It will become operational in all regions during 2004. The process had already been shown to be successful in four pilot areas, so there is every reason to expect that it will now be successful on a State-wide basis.
A high support process was officially launched in January 2003. The process provides additional funding to help purchase specific training courses to meet individuals' needs. The target group includes long-term unemployed clients and over 450 persons were referred to the process in 2003.