Sunday 22 April 2018

JobBridge replacement to pay €70 on top of dole

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar : New scheme will be a maximum of 30 hours a week.
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar : New scheme will be a maximum of 30 hours a week.
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A new internship programme to replace JobBridge could see participants get their dole topped up by €70 a week for working 30 hours.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has confirmed the controversial scheme will cease to accept new applicants from Friday.

He is to establish a consultations process with a view to setting up a similar work experience programme from the middle of next year.

However, Mr Varadkar has suggested that it will have its foundations in a report compiled by the Labour Market Council, which makes a series of recommendations including that the maximum working week should be 30 hours, compared to 40 on JobBridge.

It wants a programme with a stronger focus on skills, paying at least the minimum wage, and aimed at those unemployed for at least six months.

Speaking at the launch of a review of JobBridge by Indecon International Research Economists in association with London Economics, Mr Varadkar said the scheme had served its purpose.

JobBridge was launched in 2011 at the height of the economic crash and involved unemployed people getting a €50 top-up on their dole payments if they took part in an internship.

However, the programme faced accusations that young people were exploited by some employers.

Mr Varadkar said the new scheme would be "more selective in the types of work experience that are made available".

Unlike JobBridge, employers taking part will have to make a financial contribution.

Indecon surveyed 10,500 JobBridge participants and compared their outcomes with a matched group of non-participants. One key finding was that the €50 payment on top of their welfare entitlement "wasn't adequate".

"That's something we're going to pick up on and change in the new scheme," Mr Varadkar said.

The Labour Market Council suggests that the payment could compromise of a "maxing up" of the Jobseekers' Allowance given for under 25s to the full adult rate.

For over 25s, it recommends increasing the top-up payments to €70 for 30 hours of work.

This would result in a payment of €258 which is approximately the same amount as the net pay somebody on the minimum wage would receive.

The Indecon report found that participants on JobBridge improved their employment outcomes by 32pc. Overall, 79pc of participants - about 38,000 people - have had some spell of employment since completing the programme.

Fianna Fáil's social protection spokesman Willie O'Dea welcomed the move, saying: "It has been clear for some time the scheme wasn't working the way it was intended to, and that some unforeseen, negative consequences happened."

Irish Independent

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