Thursday 18 December 2014

Government departments used JobBridge interns – and then let them all go

Claire McCormack

Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30

Taoisech Enda Kenny
Taoisech Enda Kenny

GOVERNMENT departments – including Taoiseach Enda Kenny's – hired over 260 JobBridge interns, knowing they could not give them jobs.

The Department of Social Protection has confirmed that 261 interns have worked at departments since the back-to-work scheme began, of whom 233 finished their internships.

None were offered permanent jobs because there is a moratorium on recruitment in the public sector, which only allows staff to be hired in exceptional circumstances.

The Irish Independent understands that interns at Mr Kenny's department worked there for nine months, earning €50 a week on top of their social welfare payment.

Two years ago, four interns were hired for the roles of policy researcher, international communications intern, policy analyst and policy analyst and researcher.

Last year, the department hired a policy analyst and a policy researcher.

This year, it took on another two interns as policy researchers in the Economic, International and Northern Ireland Division.

In order to be eligible as a JobBridge host, all organisations must allow for a six-month "cooling off period" before they take on another JobBridge intern in the same position.

A spokesman for the Department of the Taoiseach said they operated within these guidelines and that although interns were taken in under the same job title the work was different.

Experience

Of the 261 interns hired by departments, one was offered a six-month contract. Another 57 interns got jobs elsewhere.

A spokesman at the Department of An Taoiseach confirmed it took them on knowing they would not be offered jobs.

He said it participated in the scheme to give participants the opportunity to gain valuable experience working in a government department.

The Department of Social Protection said those applying for internships in the public sector did so in the knowledge of this recruitment moratorium.

However, it also revealed that an intern at another government department, which it could not name, got a six-month contract.

Government JobBridge interns are often engaged in challenging and responsible work related to their academic qualifications and, in some cases, are asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said it had been "supportive" and "a participant" of the scheme.

To date it has taken on nine interns in areas such as legal research, record management and entrepreneurship strategy projects. "Internships do not displace any existing staff and are not used to fill vacant posts," said a spokesperson, adding: "Rather they are engaged in once-off or project-type work for which there exists a clear definition of objectives relevant to the duration of the internship."

When launching the scheme in June 2011, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said "the Government is committed to getting Ireland back to work and JobBridge is an important part of that effort".

Fianna Fail spokesperson on jobs Dara Calleary said the fact the interns were not offered jobs "sends a horrific signal to interns and JobBridge sponsors". His party in government introduced the ban on hiring as the economic crisis hit.

He claimed that public sector internships were being used to circumvent the ban. "How can the Government police employers not to treat their interns in the same way?" he asked.

Socialist MEP Paul Murphy, who has branded the Government's flagship scheme 'scambridge', said he was not surprised that the interns were not offered a job.

"The Government has presented JobBridge as something great, and that people should be grateful to work for nine months for free, but they are being exploited even in the Taoiseach's office," he said.

The Department of Social Protection refused to comment on future plans for JobBridge under the Labour leadership of minister Joan Burton.

Irish Independent

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