Speech by Minister Joan Burton to Seanad Éireann


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Pathways to Work 2013

25 September 2013

The Pathways to Work strategy launched last year was the blueprint for the biggest set of reforms that our welfare services have ever seen. It provided for the establishment of an integrated employment and income support service with an intensified work activation focus.  The initial reforms concentrated on how we deliver services to the newly-unemployed.   The 50 point action plan we published in July of this year sets out to maintain the momentum developed under the Pathways strategy and to build on the progress we have made to date. It also has a particular focus on increasing and intensifying our level of engagement with people who are already long-term unemployed.

Following years of job losses there are now welcome signs of progress in the labour market.  There was an annual increase in 33,800 in the year to the second quarter of 2013. Unemployment fell by 22,200 over the same period, to 300,700, continuing a downward trend that began at the start of 2012. By the end of June, the Live Register – which includes casual and part-time workers as well as unemployed people – had fallen to 415,300, from a peak of 466,000 in 2010. The unemployment rate, at 13.4%, is down from a peak of 15.1% in early 2012.

Despite these tentative signs of improvement, unemployment – particularly long-term unemployment – remains unacceptably high. And it is also relatively concentrated in certain households where no adults are working. More than one fifth of the population under 60 years of age lives in such “jobless households”.

Amazingly, the percentage of jobless households actually increased during the peak period of the economic boom, indicating a structural problem that was never sufficiently addressed by previous governments.

We need to ensure that economic recovery does not leave behind people who are long-term unemployed and in jobless households.  

Pathways to Work 2013 builds on the significant progress we made in implementing the reforms and delivering on the targets in Pathways to Work during 2012:-

  • Over 20,000 who were long-term unemployed at the start of 2012 have found employment.
  • FÁS employment services and the Community Welfare Service (c 2,000 staff) were transferred into the Department of Social Protection on time and within budget. The new Intreo model of operation – integrating the relevant employment and payment services – was developed and roll-out commenced in October 2012. Twelve Intreo offices have been opened to date and 43 will be fully operational by the end of 2013.
  • Group engagements and individual profiling is now fully operational in all DSP offices in advance of the roll-out of the full Intreo service.
  • The Social Contract of rights and responsibilities is now in force with penalty rates of payment introduced for jobseekers who do not engage with the State’s employment/training services
  • The national internship scheme, JobBridge, was rolled out and is delivering a clear pathway to employment for many people. Over 20,000 people have benefited from this scheme with a progression to employment rate of over 60%.
  • The Momentum programme to provide work-focussed training to long-term unemployed people was developed, tendered and rolled out – over 4,000 people are now benefitting from this programme.
  • The number of places available on activation schemes such as CE, TÚS and Jobbridge was increased by 10,000 (c 30%) as part of Budget 2013.
  • The Springboard programme has supported more than 10,000 unemployed people to re-skill for emerging employment opportunities.

Pathways to Work 2013, as I have said, seeks to maintain the momentum in the implementation of the original Pathways reforms, while introducing an increased focus on the long-term unemployed, in particular among those who became unemployed in the crisis period 2008 - 2011.

Among the planned actions that reflect this focus on long-term unemployment I would highlight the following:-

  • Profiling all clients on the Live Register not just new claimants (c 420,000 profiles) and developing an Intreo programme for engaging with long-term unemployed clients
  • 10,000 additional places on employment programmes this year, mainly for the long-term unemployed
  • Reserving 40% of training places for the long-term unemployed, and reviewing the possible further contribution of the Further Education sector in this area
  • Further ensuring that “work pays” through reforms to housing support under the new Housing Assistance Payment, as well as through continuing simplification and promotion of the in-work payments under the  Family Income Supplement (FIS)
  • Implementing the JobsPlus incentive for employers to recruit people who are long-term unemployed
  • Monitoring and encouraging recruitment from the Live Register by client firms of the Enterprise Development agencies
  • Doubling the number of caseworkers employed within the Department on activation duties to increase capacity to engage with Live Register clients, in particular long-term unemployed people, while also finalising proposals for contracting additional capacity for employment services for long-term unemployed people.

Measures reducing long-term unemployment will have spill-over benefits for jobless households. We also plan taking additional measures in this area. These include, for example,

  • monitoring “migration” of people from jobseeker to other welfare payments,
  • reviewing, over a number of years, the capacity for work of long-term recipients of illness and disability payments
  • possible extension of activation interventions to include lone parents and the partners/spouses of unemployed people

We will continue to work to identify the specific factors underlying the concentration of joblessness in particular households, and to bring forward further measures to address this problem.

Detailed targets have been set under each of the 50 planned actions set out in Pathways to Work 2013, and these will be reported against at quarterly intervals. The report for the end of Quarter 2 will be published shortly and I am pleased to report that we are on track to deliver on most of the targets set out.  I am confident that that the measures we have taken and the progress we are making  will support the on-going recovery in the labour market and increase the benefits of that recovery for those who are currently long-term unemployed.

ENDS

Last modified:25/09/2013