Saturday 24 September 2016

Labour slams Varadkar's scrapping of JobBridge

Martin Grant

Published 23/05/2016 | 02:30

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar Photo: Caroline Quinn
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar Photo: Caroline Quinn

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has been accused of "dancing" to the tune of an Independent junior minister by scrapping the controversial state-funded JobBridge internship scheme.

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Former junior social protection minister and now Senator Kevin Humphreys made the claim, saying Mr Varadkar had made the "knee-jerk" decision after coming under pressure from Independent TD and Skills Minister John Halligan.

Last Friday, Mr Halligan called for the JobBridge scheme to be scrapped, saying that it was "not fit for purpose" and needed to be "replaced".

Within hours, Mr Varadkar told the 'Sunday Independent' that JobBridge had "served its purpose" and he wanted a new scheme to be introduced.

However, Mr Humphreys believes that Mr Varadkar has rushed into his decision and has caved in to the Independent minister's request.

"I think the minister is maybe just giving in to a knee-jerk reaction because his minister of state (John Halligan) called for it to be scrapped," Mr Humphreys told the Irish Independent last night.

He added that Mr Varadkar was "dancing" to Mr Halligan's tune.

Instead of scrapping the scheme, Mr Humphreys said the Government should wait until an independent report on the scheme is published later this year.

Review

The Labour Senator said he initiated a "full and independent" review of the scheme last November, which is due to be published in September.

He said: "I'm not saying there are not faults with JobBridge that wouldn't do any harm in reforming them.

"The best approach is on an evidence basis... (let's) look at the review and look at the recommendations for change."

JobBridge involves unemployed people getting paid an additional €52.50 on top of their weekly dole in return for working as full-time interns with companies.

The State-supported work-experience programme is aimed at up-skilling those on social welfare and securing them full-time employment.

However, businesses and State agencies have been accused of abusing the scheme and using it as a source of cheap labour during the economic downturn.

Irish Independent

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