Wednesday 24 May 2017

'Fundamental' back to work schemes face axe under budget spending review

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Arthur Carron
Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Arthur Carron
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Employment schemes aimed at getting people back to work face being cut as part of Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe's review of Government spending.

Mr Donohoe ordered a review of spending across all departments as fears in Government grow over the amount of funding available for next year's Budget. A new public sector pay deal and the cost of the Government's housing and homelessness strategy have reduced the amount of funding available for new projects.

Ministers have been tasked with finding efficiencies in their departments to fund new policies. Speaking at the launch of his spending review, the minister signalled cuts to job activation schemes which were implemented during the recession to get people back to work.

"In relation to the Department of Social Protection, we want to work with them to make sure that the funding we are using in relation to labour support, at a time at which we have an economy which has the prospect of full employment within reach, is being used in the right way to deliver the policy objectives Minister Varadkar has laid out," Mr Donohoe said.

The so-called labour activation schemes facing the axe include Tús and Gateway, overseen by Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.

Employment

A spokeswoman for Mr Varadkar last night said the schemes were a "fundamental" part of the department's "suite of measures to help unemployed people back into work".

However, she said: "As the economy continues to grow and unemployment falls, there's a realistic prospect that we will return to full employment.

"This means the supports provided by the department will need to be modified to reflect the changing nature of the employment market."

Mr Donohoe said other departments would also be reviewed in the coming weeks. Mr Donohoe has asked ministers to set out areas of their department where potential savings can be made by March 16.

The 'Sunday Independent' last weekend revealed ministers had been warned that any new policies would have to be found through cost-saving measures in their departments.

Yesterday, Mr Donohoe said "in light of the fact that the economic and fiscal context has changed significantly" it was appropriate to carry out a review of spending ahead of budget negotiations.

"Due to the stabilising of the public finances by Government, we have moved from a budgetary cycle where cuts had to be made to one where moderate and sustainable expenditure growth is now planned over the medium-term," he said.

"However, there are increasing and competing public service demands emerging which means that public expenditure policy must prioritise additional spending between numerous demands."

Irish Independent

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