In the first instance, the Government’s primary strategy to tackle unemployment is to create the environment for a strong economic recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity. Economic recovery will underpin jobs growth.
In addition to promoting economic recovery, the Government recognises the need for interim measures to support the unemployed and keep jobseekers close to the labour market. These actions range across a number of Departments and Agencies. Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, the key objective of labour market policy is to keep those on the Live Register close to the labour market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. Persons from the Live Register availing of activation measures will get an opportunity to engage in employment, training and work experience and so be in a position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time
In this context, the major elements of this Department’s response are set out in the Pathways to Work policy which is aimed at ensuring that as many as possible of the job vacancies that are created are filled by people from the Live Register, with a particular focus on those who are long term unemployed or at risk of long-term unemployment.
There are a number of schemes/programmes available that are focussed on work experience. The most relevant for young people are JobBridge (the National Internship Scheme), and its predecessor the Work Placement Programme. Some 5,800 people are currently participating on these schemes. The total number of starters on JobBridge during 2012 was 9,575. The findings of the interim evaluation of JobBridge, The National Internship Scheme by Indecon International Economic Consultants (published – 5th October 2012) found that 61% of finishers secured employment within five months of completing their internship. These progression rates compare favourably with European averages in this area and represent very significant progress in a short period of time.
The JobsPlus incentive scheme will encourage employers to recruit long-term unemployed people. The new incentive will be payable monthly in arrears, over a 2-year period. There will be 2 levels of incentive: €7,500 for recruits unemployed for more than 12 but less than 24 months and €10,000 for recruits unemployed for more than 24 months. This new incentive will replace the Revenue Job Assist and the Employer PRSI Incentive schemes.
In addition, the Department also manages a number of schemes providing temporary employment for the long-term unemployed on works and services of value to the community. There are currently 26,000 people participating on Community Employment and Tús. As part of Budget 2013, the Government approved 10,000 new places across CE, TÚS, JobBridge and a new social employment scheme with the Local Authorities.
In terms of up-skilling, the Back to Education Allowance scheme run by my Department provides income maintenance, along with a contribution to education costs, for unemployed people returning to further or higher education. Over 25,800 people participated in the BTEA in the last academic year. Some 61% of recipients pursued third level courses while 39% pursued courses described as being at second level. A majority of the second-level courses are Post Leaving Cert (PLC courses) undertaken in the further education sector. Just under 6% of the second-level option group (or 2% of all BTEA participants) were pursuing courses at or below Leaving Certificate level.
Up-skilling options are also available under TESG (Technical Employment Support Grant) and TATS (Technical Assistance and Training scheme). There were just under 17,000 beneficiaries of TATS/TESG in 2011. Both TESG and TATS are designed to allow DSP to offer flexible additional help (in the form of access to training, advice, or support for the purchase of certain goods and services) to a number of categories of unemployed people. TESG support can be for purchase of training (where this cannot be provided by a state provider within a reasonable time) or for certain other expenditures such as purchase of tools, travel costs to job interviews. Training, with limited exceptions, must be on certified courses. TATs is more focused on jobseekers with an interest in self-employment, and can assist with the purchase of training/education/mentoring, equipment, advertising, and public liability insurance.
Two further up-skilling options available are the Part-time Education Option (PTEO) and Education Training and Development Option (ET&D). Both PTEO and ET&D are designed to facilitate jobseekers who wish to engage in part time day, evening or weekend courses or more intensive short duration courses of education and training while retaining their jobseeker’s payments.
The PTEO allows participants to attend part-time day/evening or weekend courses of education or training and retain their jobseeker’s payment while an entitlement exists provided that they continue to satisfy the conditions of being available for and genuinely seeking employment on an on-going basis. Payment is made at the same rate as the primary payment and no maximisation of payments occurs. The ET&D allows participants to attend certain courses of education, training or development of short duration and retain their jobseeker’s payment while an entitlement exists. Participants are exempt from engaging in job search but must be available for employment should an opportunity arise.