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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Mystery of how jobless fared on €30m scheme

Katherine Donnelly

The Government spent €29.5m last year on a scheme to get the jobless back to work -- but doesn't know what happened to half of those who took part.

The 42 colleges and other organisations paid to provide training courses were not asked to measure results in terms of how the participants fared afterwards.

So the Department of Education has no idea of the outcomes for 4,802 of 10,163 people who completed the courses.

That means that it doesn't know whether it got value for hard-pressed taxpayers' money.

The shocking lack of accountability is thrown up in a report on the Labour Market Activation Fund (LMAF) 2010.

The fund was launched by former Education Minister Mary Coughlan in response to rapidly rising unemployment and the need to equip the jobless with new skills.

Most of the places were aimed at the under-35s, with qualifications at or below Leaving Certificate level, who had been unemployed for at least a year.

People who had worked in industries such as construction, retail and manufacturing, which had gone into sudden decline, were a particular target.

The programme covered a total of 55 projects offered by third-level colleges, VECs, community and voluntary organisations and private sector providers.

Funding per project ranged from €7,500 to €7.5m.

An evaluation of the programme by PA Consulting, states that overall it was delivered efficiently and effectively.


But the report, which was published quietly on the Department of Education website yesterday, highlights a serious flaw.

"One striking component is the higher proportion, 47pc, of those completing LMAF supported programmes where current status is unknown."

The report said that while that may be partly attributable to the short timeframe since the completion of courses and the evaluation, it was also an indication of the lack of an obligation to conduct such analysis after course completion.

"The lack of obligation on providers to ensure outcomes were measured was a weakness that should be addressed by any future Fund," the consultants state.

Any future such programmes should include a requirement at the outset for robust and ongoing monitoring of outcomes.

"This will ensure that the full value of the investment can be ascertained on an ongoing basis, filling a key data gap which is essential if we are to judge if there is an effective progression pathway approach in place."

Irish Independent

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