Friday 6 December 2019

Dole top-up scheme delivers just 96 out of 3,000 pledged jobs

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

A government scheme that aims to get 3,000 people off the dole queue has delivered just 96 positions, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has come under fire once again for the operation of one of her much-heralded Pathways to Work schemes, known as Gateway.

Figures obtained by Fianna Fail TD Willie O'Dea show that just over 3pc of the positions have been filled since the scheme was launched last year.

While all six local authorities are obliged to partake in the scheme, just six have so far filled positions.

These councils include Limerick city and county, North Tipperary, Louth, Leitrim, Fingal and Clare.

Ms Burton has already been criticised for her department's Jobs Bridge scheme after it emerged some employers were demanding applicants had a minimum of a PhD qualification.

Her department's JobPath scheme, which is designed to get 100,000 off the live register, has also hit a snag due to a shortage of welfare officials available to process applications.

It has now emerged that the Gateway scheme has also been plagued with difficulty.

The scheme aims to deliver council work for dole claimants who have been on the live register for 24 months or more.

Participants in the scheme receive a €20 top-up on their dole in return for taking up 19.5 hours per week.

Those who take part are assigned different duties by local authorities, such as landscaping, the control of animals and the partaking in community enhancement schemes.

In response to a parliamentary question by Mr O'Dea, the minister admitted take-up had been slow.

Ms Burton said that this was due to ongoing staffing issues with local authorities and that the numbers were expected to increase in the coming weeks. "Participants are selected by a random process conducted by the Department of Social Protection for recruitment by county and city councils," Ms Burton said

"Progress on the roll-out has been slower than anticipated.

"Delays in the main relate to the ongoing staff restructuring processes of county and city councils, the ongoing engagement with stakeholders, particularly trade unions, and operational matters relating to securing resources, identifying work and garda vetting."

Mr O'Dea last night described the scheme as "farcical" and called on the minister to scrap it entirely.

"I think Joan Burton should hold her hands up, admit she has made a mistake; but this simply is not working," he told the Irish Independent.

"Why would anyone take up a position like this when they are getting €20 extra per week for almost 20 hours' work?

"It's nothing short of workfare to be paid €20 on top of your dole for almost 20 hours' work per week."

Irish Independent

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