New Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has confirmed that the controversial JobBridge scheme could end as early as September, writes Daniel McConnell, Political Editor.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, Mr Varadkar confirmed that he is currently considering the future of the JobBridge internship scheme and whether it should be replaced by a new scheme more appropriate for a growing economy.
“Indecon is currently evaluating the scheme for the Department of Social Protection, and will report back in September," he said.
"The scheme has been very effective to date. Some 15,000 interns went directly into paid employment immediately following a JobBridge internship. Independent research indicates that this rose to 29,000 interns, or 61% of all participants after five months," he added.
Mr Varadkar said he personally knows people who took part in JobBridge and have benefited from it.
"It is voluntary and nobody is pushed on to it," he added.
"But it's very much a scheme of its time, and I’m considering whether there is a better alternative. I don't think it should just be scrapped.
"You should never take opportunity away unless you replace it with a better opportunity."
Confirmation that its future is in jeopardy comes amid strong criticism that many firms, including State agencies, have sought to exploit JobBridge in a bid to avoid paying normal wages.
Last week, the new Junior Jobs Minister, John Halligan, said the JobBridge scheme should be scrapped.
He said: "I think it needs to be replaced. I think the JobBridge as it is presently constituted needs to be replaced ... Right now it is not fit for purpose, we certainly need to replace it."