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Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Employer Subsidy Scheme.

Wednesday, 28 February 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 462 No. 3

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 4. Mrs. O'Rourke Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton  if his attention has been drawn to the comments of the chairperson of the National Economic and Social Forum in relation to the shortage of funds for the £80 a week subsidy scheme; and if he will make a statement on the plans, if any, he has for the implementation of the local employment service in 1996. [4636/96]

 26. Mr. McCreevy Information on Charlie McCreevy Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton  the measures or programmes, if any, that will be put in place to ensure that any employer subsidy, established to aid the employment of the long-term unemployed, will not be subject to abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2549/96]

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 and 26 together. There are essentially two parts to Deputy O'Rourke's question. The first concerns the recruitment subsidy scheme, Jobstart, and my attention has not been drawn to any such comments.

As regards the local employment service, my plans for 1996 are that the service should be consolidated in the 14 key areas. I regard the LES as an important initiative by the Government to address unemployment, and particularly long-term unemployment in these areas. The local nature of the service is especially significant, with all the relevant players in the area coming together to draw up their responses to local needs. I have been impressed with the care with which the plans have been and are being drawn up. It is important to ensure that worthwhile, effective plans, fully agreed at local levels, are in place. This cannot be done from Kildare Street.

[701] I am concerned that the detailed rules and procedures for Jobstart, currently being developed in consultation with IBEC and ICTU, will contain effective anti-abuse provisions. I know the social partners are similarly concerned. I can assure the Deputy that there will be effective anti-abuse provisions in place by the time the scheme becomes operational in July of this year.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke In The Irish Times of Tuesday, 13 February, the chairperson of the forum warned that the long-term unemployed could only hope to get the jobs if adequate resources were given to the local employment service. In her view, this appears not to be the case. Adequate resources have not been apportioned to the LES. It is clear from the Minister's answer that they will operate in 14 partnership areas this year. This is far from the forum's first recommendation that they be nationwide.

Why was there a decision to wait until July to give the £80 per week subsidy to employers for taking on long-term employed people when, according to the Minister for Finance, it will operate immediately and 5,000 long-term unemployed people will come off the live register? Will 5,000 people come off the register this year in consequence of this subsidy?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton In her reference to the newspaper report, the Deputy appeared to refer to adequate funds for the LES, whereas in her parliamentary question she referred to adequate funds for a specific scheme. This perhaps is the basis of the misunderstanding with regard to the reference. We will ensure that the local employment service is effective and delivers quality results to the clients taken on. For that reason, we are determined to consolidate it properly in the 14 areas. A great deal of preplanning work has been done with local groups and we have a basis to proceed with an effective service that will provide good guidance and counselling and design pathways for the long-term [702] unemployed to get back into employment. I am optimistic that the scheme will be seen as a significant development and expand nationwide when its effectiveness is proven in the 14 areas outlined.

The Deputy asked why it will not be introduced until July. From the outset the intention was to introduce it in July. We have to plan details of its operation, some of which are referred to in Deputy McCreevy's question.

As I indicated to the Deputy on a previous occasion, we envisage that the scheme will develop on a phased basis. We are introducing an innovative scheme targeted at those who are three or more years unemployed, for whom the chances of placement are very low. We accept it will take some time to build up employers' support, that it must go through a growth phase and that we will not achieve the target of 5,000 jobs during 1996.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke I thank the Minister for his honesty because in the blurb accompanying the budget it was announced that 5,000 long-term unemployed people would get jobs. I warn consumers to read the small print on any Government announcement.

The Minister said time was needed to ensure that the right people would benefit. Some ten months ago he stated that he had £6 million for local employment services and that he would work with partnership boards and so on to develop proper schemes, counselling and guidance. He is still seeking proper schemes, people and approaches. What has happened since he told me he was embarking on a £6 million scheme for local employment services? Why are projects not up and running?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Satisfactory projects are up and running. The plans in respect of ten of the groups have been approved and are going into operation. The other four are at an advanced stage and will prove to be effective services. They are [703] introducing new concepts, such as counselling, establishing contact points in local areas and providing the long-term unemployed with access to a new service. They are also developing more effective co-ordination with local agencies, such as FÁS, which are providing support services. The benefit of the scheme will be obvious. It will ensure that, based on proper guidance and counselling, interventions are tailormade to the needs of the unemployed and result in effective placement of the long-term unemployed. I am confident that what is in place will be not only effective for the long-term unemployed, but will represent excellent use of taxpayers' money.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke Of the £6 million the Minister received last year for local employment services, how much was spent?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Approximately £1.4 million was spent last year.

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