Foreword from the Minister
The old Irish adage "Tús maith – leath na hoibre" tells us that a good start is half the work. I welcome this first report on the Department’s Statement of Strategy 2011–2014. The report documents many new initiatives in addition to existing schemes and services.
I also welcome staff who joined the Department with the Redundancy and Insolvency payments schemes from the former Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, staff of the former Community Welfare Service who were formally integrated into the Department in 2011 and former FÁS staff who joined the Department in January this year.
Earlier this year, the government announced the Pathways to Work initiative. This puts the needs of our unemployed people at the heart of the services the Department of Social Protection delivers.
We are integrating the provision of employment services and benefit payment services within the Department to ensure that the payment of income supports to people who do not have a job is directly linked to the equally, if not more important, task of supporting them in finding a job, education or training.
A key part of this service is the Employment Action Plan, under which some 16,000 unemployed people were placed in employment, training or education in 2011. The Department also helped almost 11,000 people through the Back to Work Enterprise Scheme. That is an increase of 35% on 2010
The Department also provides education and training supports which also help move people from welfare to work. In 2010/2011, some 25,000 people availed of the Back to Education Allowance. This was an increase of 20.3% over the previous academic year. Over 85% of the people who availed of the schemes were previously unemployed.
Being unemployed can lead to great strain in families and cause intergenerational welfare dependency. Our Activation and Family Support Programme provides funding for initiatives to help people become more employable. In 2011, almost 9,000 people received education, training and personal development opportunities funded by this programme.
I am particularly pleased with the success of JobBridge, the national internship scheme I launched in 2011 which provided 5,000 internship opportunities to unemployed people. These internship places are open to jobseekers who were unable to obtain employment after training, apprenticeship or graduation. The aim of JobBridge is to help bridge the gap between unemployment and the world of work.
Finally, I would like to thank the staff in the Department of Social Protection for their help with the reform programme. Change is not always easy, but I believe that our work together in 2011 represents a key step on the road to securing our country’s economic recovery.
Joan Burton T.D.
Minister for Social Protection