Statement by the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton TD

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Statement by the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton TD at the launch of the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan 28th January 2014

Good afternoon.

I'd like to thank Stefano for his excellent presentation, which captures the scale of the challenge we face in implementing the Youth Guarantee in Ireland. I'd also like to welcome those involved in the Ballymun Youth Guarantee pilot project – about which I'll say a little more shortly – the members of the Labour Market Council, employers and assembled guests.

In one word the Youth Guarantee is about potential. It's about making sure we give our young people the opportunities they need to achieve their full potential. It's about ensuring that our job activation and training system helps them achieve this potential. And it's about putting in place the cultural and organisational change necessary to achieve all of this. That is why we made tackling youth unemployment a priority of our EU Presidency last year, and achieved political agreement on the Youth Guarantee. And it's why we're going to spend more than €500 million this year on providing employment, education and training opportunities for young people.

As Minister for Social Protection, I have focused since coming to office on transforming the Department from the passive benefits provider of old to an active and engaged employment service, through the Pathways to Work strategy. That work – and the wider Government drive to boost job creation - is now paying off.

Overall unemployment has fallen from a peak of 15.1% to 12.4%. As compared with one year ago, more than 58,000 additional people are now in jobs, the vast majority of them in full-time employment. But much more remains to be done, and this is especially true when it comes to youth unemployment. Again, youth unemployment in Ireland is falling – from a peak of over 33% to 25% now – but that remains far too high. Even if the scale of the problem in Ireland does not match that in some member states – where youth unemployment is running at close to 60% - is it imperative that we tackle the issue with utmost urgency. That is where the Youth Guarantee comes in.

The concept is simple – to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. However, as Stefano has shown, it would be unwise to try to do this by the flick of a switch. Just as the system of passive income support that became the keynote feature of our welfare system developed over many years, an active system based on services, training, work placement and opportunities will take time to build. While the Plan being published today is ambitious in its scope, it is important to stress that there is no instant or single solution to the youth unemployment problem. It will take time and perseverance, involving ongoing investment and the sustained effort of the State, employers, unions and jobseekers alike.

As agreed at EU level, and in common with a number of other member states, the Guarantee will be introduced on a phased basis in Ireland because of the financial constraints we are facing. Nonetheless, Ireland will move to implement the Guarantee from a very advantageous position – as recognised by both the EU and OECD. Many of the elements that will make up the Guarantee at EU level are already in place in Ireland through the Pathways to Work and related strategies.

These include:

  • Intreo – the transformative new employment service helping people back to work;
  • JobBridge – the national internship scheme;
  • JobsPlus – the wage subsidy scheme for employers; and
  • Work experience options such as TÚS and Gateway

In implementing the Guarantee, we will build on these elements and continually widen them. So there will be earlier and faster engagement for young people under Intreo. There will be thousands of additional places available on schemes such as JobBridge and TÚS. And we will reduce the amount of time a young person has to be unemployed before availing of JobsPlus. In keeping with the Government's broader focus on tackling long-term unemployment, we will first target interventions at those young people most at risk of long-term unemployment. In this way, we ensure that limited resources go towards those who are most in need.

In Ballymun, which was chosen to implement a Youth Guarantee pilot project, the first referrals have already begun. While still at an early stage, the pilot has a vital role to play, not just for the young people of Ballymun, but in informing the development and roll-out of the national Youth Guarantee. Each young jobseeker we engage with will receive a guarantee of access to career guidance, leading to identification of an individual career plan with follow-through to training, education, work experience or full-time employment.

An excellent team has been assembled to deliver the Ballymun project – including public employment services, education and training providers, local development and youth organisations, employer and trade union representatives.

Such teamwork will be crucial to the success of the Youth Guarantee at national level. I am very pleased to say that there is significant commitment from employers both locally and in Dublin City more generally. Next month, an employers' meeting will be co-hosted by IBEC and the Dublin Chamber of Commerce to facilitate the active participation of the business sector in the pilot. The Department, with the assistance and advice of the Labour Market Council, will seek to replicate this employer buy-in across the country. The support and willingness of employers to give our young people a chance will be absolutely crucial to the Youth Guarantee's success.

I've consistently stated that a fiscal response to the economic crisis was never going to be enough – that there had to be a social response too. The Youth Guarantee is a key element of that social response – putting our young people, our future, front and centre.

Thank you.

Last modified:28/01/2014