Jobless will have to work for the dole or lose benefits
UNEMPLOYED people claiming the dole will be made to work in the community for their benefits under new government plans.
Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv has revealed that the new measures could be enforced within months.
Under a pilot scheme, intially up to 10,000 unemployed people will receive €210 for 19.5 hours work every week by helping out with local after-school and childcare services, sports clubs, services for older people and environmental projects.
Those who fail to show up or miss hours will be struck off the dole under the plans.
The "social employment" scheme hopes to keep the 10,000 people in regular work as they search for a full-time job and a return to the labour market. If successful, the scheme could be extended to 40,000 people over the next two years.
It will initially be run for a trial period over the next four months. "Changing the way we approach our existing resources can unlock the potential of new ways to create locally-based jobs," Mr O Cuiv said.
"We must create a better future for people who find themselves without a job; to provide them with work activity in the short term, to up-skill them and give them opportunities to get back into the mainstream workforce as speedily as possible.
"Maintaining people's employability through regular work activity will be important for getting people back into the competitive economy."
The Government's work opportunity schemes -- which include the Community Services Programme and the Rural Social Scheme -- are set to expand from early autumn, when they are transferred from the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs to Mr O Cuiv's office.
Between them, both schemes already give work opportunities to 5,300 individuals nationwide.
Mr O Cuiv believes the move will make a difference to services throughout the country.
"There are many needs in communities in terms of provision of after-school services, childcare, services for older people and environmental projects that we could continue to address through these schemes," he added.
"There is also the semi-economic sector, where we have heritage centres, tourist facilities and sports clubs that can generate some financial income, but that will always require some small state support from work schemes."
The Rural Social Scheme gives additional work and income to low-income farming and fishing families who provide essential community services, help development and maintain rural walkways and assist with tourism.
Meanwhile, funding supplied under the Community Services Programme gives employment opportunities to people with disabilities, the long-term unemployed, Travellers and recovering drug-users and ex-prisoners who get involved in activities for the elderly, for people with disabilities and recycling and environmental projects.
According to Mr O Cuiv, two out of every three unemployed people leave the live register within six months of signing on.
More than 71,000 people came off the register and went into employment in the six months from October 2009 to March 2010.
Moves to introduce a new community-based scheme come after Central Statistics Office figures revealed there were 68,600 unemployed graduates in March, compared with 25,400 at the same time in 2008.
The Economic and Social Research Institute recently warned that 200,000 people may be forced to emigrate between now and 2015 if unemployment is not addressed.
The Union of Students in Ireland said many of these would be highly-skilled graduates.