The local employment service, LES, is a valuable part of publicly funded employment services. Total LES funding for 2014, at €19.1 million, has been maintained at the same level as last year. In recent months the Department has modernised its approach to working with unemployed jobseekers through the roll-out of Intreo. Under the Intreo approach, the Department provides employment activation services to unemployed jobseekers using a mix of its own case officers and the contracted capacity provided by the LES and by other employment services throughout the country. In that context, I refer to employment services that are involved in specific work with the Department in the Border, midlands and western, BMW, region in respect of assisting those with disabilities to obtain appropriate training and employment experience. During the roll-out of Intreo, the Department has significantly increased the number of its own staff allocated to work, in particular, with newly unemployed jobseekers. Having taken note of recommendations by the OECD among others, the Department intends to increase its contracted capacity to intensify the level of support provided to jobseekers who are long-term unemployed. Towards this end, the JobPath tender is designed to procure capacity, using a payment-by-results model, to supplement and augment the Department’s core capacity and that of the LES. We will continue our contractual arrangements with LES providers following the introduction of JobPath. LES providers and others in the voluntary or community sectors are also free to participate in JobPath. This will give them an opportunity to expand and enhance their services into the future.
The request for tenders in respect of JobPath issued on 12 December 2013, with a closing date of 28 February 2014. Taking account of the time required for the tender evaluation process, it is expected that contracts will be awarded in April or May of this year. It is expected that successful tenderers will require approximately six months to set up operations following contract award. On that basis, I expect that JobPath should commence some operations towards the end of this year.