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 Header Item Jobs Protection
 Header Item Disability Allowance Payments

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 800 No. 4

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Jobs Protection

 3. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if her attention has been drawn to the situation in the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council owned Ballyogan recycling depot, where a number of persons have been taken on to the JobBridge scheme which has resulted in other workers being displaced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19151/13]

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department is in receipt of a complaint regarding the issue raised by the Deputy and is currently examining the matter.

  All allegations are taken extremely seriously; displacement of existing workers by JobBridge interns is not allowed under the terms and conditions of the JobBridge scheme, is a flagrant abuse of the scheme and is not a practice that can be condoned. Any host organisation which is found to be displacing paid staff in contravention of the scheme rules will be disbarred from further access to the scheme. In addition, all existing internships with the host organisation will cease.

  I understand that the facility referred to in the question is operated by a private firm operating under contract with the local authority.

  The complaint made is currently being investigated by the Department and I am advised that an investigating officer has been in contact with both the individual who raised the complaint and with the host organisation. I expect a report on the matter to be finalised shortly.

  The whole purpose of JobBridge is to encourage job creation and to incentivise employers to offer opportunities to unemployed people. It runs counter to the logic of the scheme that it should be used to displace existing employees onto the live register and I will not tolerate such behaviour. In fact, the scheme has been designed and is operated with a number of controls designed to minimise the risk of such behaviour. The host organisation may not provide an internship under the scheme to an individual with whom they have an existing employment relationship. The host organisation cannot advertise internships if it has paid employment vacancies in the area of activity in which the internship is offered. The total number of internships that may be availed of by a host organisation is limited to one in ten of its workforce or, in the case of very large employers, an absolute limit of 200 staff. Organisations must abide by a six-month cooling-off period between internships; in other words, an organisation cannot roll over internships on a continuous basis. This limits the ability of an internship to substitute for a permanent role. The host organisation must provide coaching and mentoring. All applications from host organisations to advertise internships are reviewed and assessed under the criteria set by the Department's national contact centre in Edenderry.

  We intensively monitor internships. Since JobBridge was launched, 1,700 monitoring visits have been conducted. All complaints are taken up. In a period in which we had approximately 13,500 people on internships, we received some 275 complaints, and 15 host organisations that were found to have breached the scheme have been excluded from further participation.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

I am satisfied that the design of the scheme, together with the intensive monitoring regime operated by the Department, minimises the level of displacement and acts to protect the interests of host organisations, interns and the wider labour market.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett When JobBridge was introduced some of us were sceptical about the claims the Government made for it and believed that, against a wider background of austerity and cuts that were crippling employment prospects, this scheme could be abused by employers to displace existing jobs. The instance I have cited for the Minister is a serious example of those fears being realised. I refer to a private company that is employed by one of our councils, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, with a major contract for waste collection in the county. One week it has people working for it whom it has to pay; the next week, those people are gone and replaced with so-called interns that the State is paying for, subsidising a private company.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Will the Deputy ask a question?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett One of the employees, Brian, stated:

I was working in Ballyogan for one year and 11 months and I was told on Wednesday, 27 March that I would no longer be needed on 1 April. Now there is an intern doing my job. This intern is being paid from the Department of Social Protection and I had to sign on too, costing the State an extra €238 every week while Oxigen are laughing all the way to the bank.

That is a very serious example of abuse of the scheme, and there is widespread anecdotal evidence of that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputy, I want to call the Minister and then I will come back to you. Do you want to ask another supplementary question after this one? We have only six minutes for this question.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett What does the Minister intend to do about that, and what measures will she put in place to ensure it cannot happen again?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I have just outlined for the Deputy an extensive set of measures that are in place. In view of the fact that more than 13,000 people who have taken part in JobBridge, the number of complaints received have been extremely low in number. Where we have found that there is good cause to the complaint, as I told the Deputy, 15 host organisations have been excluded from further participation in JobBridge as a consequence of those control activities. We have a series of monitoring visits in place. More than 1,700 monitoring visits have taken place so far to different organisations that have hosted JobBridge internships.

More importantly, we asked Indecon consultants to conduct very detailed research into the outcome of JobBridge, and the good news, which I am sure the Deputy will want to hear, is that over 60% of the people who acquired a JobBridge internship have gone on to secure further employment. That is a placement rate far in excess of most schemes seeking to provide employment for people who have been out of the workforce for a long period of time or who have acquired qualifications. Unfortunately, some of the people on the JobBridge schemes have been extraordinarily qualified, bright graduates who, because of the current state of the labour market, have found it difficult to get a first job or experience in their particular field. The feedback from a significant number of people who have taken on an internship and also from the employers that have hosted the internships has been for the most part extremely positive.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The person I quoted complained to the Department of Social Protection on 21 March. It is now 24 April. The Minister says she is considering the complaint made. How long does it take to consider this matter and adjudicate on it? It appears to me to be a cut and dried case of abuse by, I repeat, a company that has a major contract with a local authority and is profiting from the contract that has been given to it by a public authority. There have been many other instances that I know have been cited to the Minister, including the use of interns for checkout jobs in Donegal and jobs in SuperValu. I understand Deputy Halligan mentioned to the Minister furniture firms in Waterford that close down one week, make people redundant, tell them to depend on the insolvency service to get their redundancy payment and reopen the next week doing the same job with interns in the jobs of the employees they had let go.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I have to call the Minister.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett More needs to be done to monitor this scheme. Will there be prosecutions of firms that have abused the scheme?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I want to reassure the Deputy that we have an extensive system of monitoring in place, which the Deputy will find on the JobBridge site. I do not want to comment on the detail of the case, although the Deputy has made many allegations. I have asked an official of the Department to examine the complaints that have been made. We have had to go back to the organisation about which the Deputy has made the allegations.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett They all came from employees.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Even in Trotskyite politics it is possible-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It has nothing to do with Trotsky. It is about four people who lost their jobs.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputy, the person in possession should be allowed to finish.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The Minister should have some respect for them.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I have every respect for them. That is why we have had 13,000 people successfully taking part in this scheme. As I told the Deputy, where allegations are made we take them extremely seriously. We are taking what the Deputy said extremely seriously but he must appreciate that we have to investigate whether the complaint is well-founded.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Talk to the employees.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Deputy has a letter from an individual. It concerns a company which, as he said, is in some kind of contractual relationship with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. It is appropriate to give an opportunity for the matter to be examined. I do not want to say anything else about the specific case, for reasons I believe the Deputy would appreciate.

Disability Allowance Payments

 4. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her plans for the future of the domiciliary care allowance and the disability allowance in view of the advisory group on social welfare and taxation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19153/13]

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton At the outset I want to put on record that the Government fully recognises that the domiciliary care allowance, DCA, scheme represents a very important support to parents and guardians who live with and care for children with a disability. Likewise, the disability allowance, DA, represents an important income support to people who are unfit for work. In this context I am pleased that two important reports have been published in recent times.

DCA is now being paid in respect of 26,000 children, an increase of more than 3,000 since the Department took over responsibility for the scheme from the HSE in April 2009. Spending on the scheme and the respite care grant, which is automatically paid to all recipients, has increased from €138 million to €145 million between 2010 and 2012. In 2012, DA was being paid in respect of 120,000 customers at a cost of €1.09 billion.


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