Sunday 18 February 2018

Anger as work scheme to help jobless excludes public sector

Fiach Kelly

A MUCH-heralded work placement scheme designed to help jobless people does not cover the public sector.

The Work Placement Programme (WPP) was launched by the Government last May in an effort to tackle the unemployment crisis.

It was intended to offer those out of work a chance to gain experience without giving up their welfare entitlements. Participating employers would benefit by not having to pay their WPP 'employee'.

But applicants to the scheme have been told they cannot get placements in the public sector.

The programme has already been criticised for its poor uptake, which led the Government to re-evaluate its criteria. It is now open to jobseekers and unemployed graduates and companies with as little as one employee can take part.

One such graduate is Louise Underwood, a 25-year-old from Kilinick, Co Wicklow, who has two degrees from NUI Galway and a masters in Environmental Law from University College London. Her ambition is to work for the UN or EU and last November she arranged a placement at NUI Galway as research assistant to gain experience.

But after initially approving the placement, FAS then told NUIG to hold off on her paperwork because of a change in the criteria of the WPP.

"Until they had the new system up and running, they wanted NUIG to hold off," Louise said. "Then, in the New Year, I was told that universities weren't eligible for the scheme.

"They didn't know if this was temporary or not."

Louise -- who is now considering moving abroad for work -- said the whole experience has left her "bitterly disappointed".

A FAS spokesman said that it was "urgently" seeking a meeting with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to clear up the confusion and enable public sector place-ments. The department says that instructions will be issued shortly on the scheme.

"It is a bit of a mess," Fine Gael's Enterprise spokesman Leo Varadkar said. "I don't think it is working as a programme -- people are not training on the job."

Irish Independent

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