Irish News

Friday 1 August 2014

Just 92 jobless join €1-an-hour scheme

'Gateway' plan to get €19m in funding this year despite disastrous response

Mark O'Regan

Published 01/04/2014|02:30

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The scheme is intended to get long-term unemployed off the dole
The scheme is intended to get long-term unemployed off the dole queue

ONLY 92 out of 3,000 long-term jobseekers – told to work for their dole – have taken jobs on a government scheme paying €1 an hour.

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Despite this disastrous response, the Irish Independent has learned that the Government is to continue funding the scheme until 2019, with €19m earmarked this year.

First announced in Budget 2013, the 'Gateways Initiative' offers the long-term unemployed "community service" jobs with local authorities as part of the Government's Pathways to Work strategy.

Participants work for an average of 19.5 hours a week for an additional €20 per week – the equivalent of €1 an hour.

Those who take up the offer receive this payment on top of their existing social welfare benefits.

They are selected at random by the Department of Social Protection for recruitment by city and county councils.

The full allocation is 3,000 placements nationwide, with each job lasting 22 months.

The department had hoped to have 1,500 places filled by the end of 2013, and another 1,500 by the end of March.

However, just 3pc of the allocated placements have been taken up to date.

It targets those more than two years unemployed, with 450 places reserved for under-25s. The job vacancies include work for clerical workers, gardeners, landscapers, community development employees and IT staff.

CONDITIONS

The Gateway scheme is modelled on other initiatives such as Tus and Community Employment, with the same level of pay and similar conditions.

This is based on the value of a participant's prior jobseeker's allowance, plus an additional €20 per week, with a minimum payment of €208 gross per week.

While taking part in the scheme, participants can take up other part-time employment, provided it does not interfere with the work and times of their Gateway placement.

They will receive the same statutory annual leave and public holiday entitlement as other employees. If they are offered full-time alternative work, they may terminate their Gateway contract.

Despite the low payment, a spokeswoman said the scheme was specifically designed to help retrain and upskill the long-term unemployed.

Workers who refuse to engage in the initiative face the prospect of social welfare payments being reduced, or having payments suspended. Most recent figures show three people have been disqualified from receiving their jobseeker's payment for nine weeks.

Twenty-eight have had their payments suspended because the department has not had a response to an invitation to participate in the scheme.

A further nine terminated their jobseeker's claim after they received the invitation to participate in the scheme, and one person has had their rate of payment reduced.

"Sanctions are used as a last resort where individual clients refuse to engage with the scheme," a spokesperson said.

The department said it aimed to fill all 3,000 placements by year end.

Irish Independent

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