In Response to the Minister’s Statement
Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar has recently released a statement regarding his future intentions for the Community Employment Scheme. Mr Varadkar has also brought in some new policy changes that will be welcome by community projects throughout the State (such as lowering the minimum participant age etc.). The Minister reassuringly has stated that Community Employment is both “essential” and “worthwhile” and spoke of the important services, which could not be provided without the use of CE Schemes. This acknowledgement is welcome, as are the policy changes but it is not the whole story.
It would seem the Minister’s true ambition for the future of Community Employment is to ring fence it solely for those furthermost from the labour market. The Minister was justifiably criticised for stating “…giving people who quite frankly, let’s be honest find it difficult to hold down a job and give them something worthwhile to do…” belies the Minister’s true intention and feeling towards Community Employment Schemes.
The Minister may talk about holding places but it is ultimately, a meaningless promise. The Minister’s actual ambition at this time is to place the majority of long term unemployed people in the care of two private companies, who will then act as recruitment agents for the State. People who are long term unemployed are ostensibly “invited” to participate on JobPath, a programme that provides general job seeking advice and attempts to place the individual into direct employment.
The problem with this programme is that unlike Community Employment, it provides no direct experience in a working environment, it provides no specific QQI accredited training and there is no onsite support for those “lucky” participants who are placed in employment. It ignores the lived realities for many who are long term outside the culture of employment and presumes that people can just be placed in any old job and people who don’t submit to this just need “something worthwhile to do”.
The problem for community-run services, such as crèches, youth projects etc. is that the pool they can employ from is dramatically reduced as people are sent on JobPath and unable to participate on CE Schemes. The Minister is slowly squeezing the life out of CE Schemes, through private companies at cost to the community and the participant. The changes being made to CE are broadly cosmetic when one looks at what the Minister is pushing elsewhere. The Department of Social Protection can reduce or cut entirely the supplement given to people in long term unemployment if they do not acquiesce with the two private companies involved in JobPath. This inevitably places power in these companies to force people into jobs they may not be suitable for or able to perform.
We ask that people are given a fair choice between Jobpath and Community Employment Schemes allow the person to choose the best route back to employment for themselves.