Burton feels heat over stalled job scheme
JOAN Burton is under fire after it emerged that tens of thousands of jobseekers will have to wait until the end of the year before they are assisted in finding work.
The Social Protection Minister (pictured) has been accused of acting too slowly in dealing with the massive list of dole claimants scheduled to be interviewed as part of the JobPath scheme.
The initiative is designed to get up to 100,000 people off the live register and into employment and other opportunities this year alone. Unemployed people who take part in the scheme are assisted in their bid to find a job, by receiving advice in areas such as team building and CV preparation.
However, the scheme hit a snag last year because of a major shortage of the welfare officials required to process the large number of interviewees.
The Government has now been forced to draft in external companies to process the massive waiting list and contracts have been put out for tender.
However, a spokeswoman for Ms Burton told the Irish Independent that the companies would not be in place until October.
Fianna Fail's social protection spokesperson, Willie O'Dea, described the estimate as "farcical".
"Here we have tens of thousands of people waiting to take part in this scheme that Joan Burton said would achieve major things. And yet, we're being told that the firms won't begin interviews until the end of the year," he told the Irish Independent.
"This is farcical. It confirms the level of commitment this Government is showing to getting this scheme off the ground.
"Will the firms really be in place by the end of the year -- or will it take even longer? Given this Government's track record, I wonder whether they will be put in place at all," he added.
However, a spokeswoman for Ms Burton insisted that the scheme was crucial in getting people back to work.
"JobPath is a new programme of employment activation aimed specifically at long-term unemployed people (over 12 months) and those most distant from the labour market," her spokeswoman said.
"In order to complement and augment its own directly employed resource capacity and the resource capacity already contracted through Local Employment Service providers, the department wishes to procure additional contract capacity from providers with expertise and experience in the provision of employment support or related services."