Burton: JobBridge not a tally exercise

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has denied that JobBridge is a Government "exercise in reducing the tally of numbers on the live register" to imply a decrease in the level of social welfare assistance provided by the State.

The claim had been made in a parliamentary question to the minister from Independent TD John Halligan.

Another Independent TD, Mick Wallace, also pressed Ms Burton, saying “if existing training schemes and courses are designed to solely reduce numbers on the live register and that opening these schemes to persons on other social welfare allowances would actually have a greater impact on returning persons to the workforce”.

Ms Burton referred to CSO live register figures which showed data to the end of August on the numbers availing of programmes mainly targeted at people who were unemployed for over 12 months, as well as other welfare recipients.

She said there were 62,937 people on the programmes at that point, a rise of 551 on the previous year. “At end of August, JobBridge had 6,053 participants compared to approximately 5,300 at the same time last year,” she said.

“During the same period, August 2013-August 2014, the number of people on the live register fell from 415,600 to 380,100 — a reduction of 35,500. Given that the reduction in numbers of people on the live register is about 35,000 greater than the increase in the number of people on employment schemes, it cannot be said that the reduction in the numbers of people on the live register is due to a marked increase in the number of people on employment schemes, including JobBridge.”

In relation to Mr Wallace’s query, Ms Burton denied existing training schemes and courses were designed to simply reduce numbers on the register. “However, the key objective of activation policy, encapsulated in the recently launched Pathways to Work 2015 strategy, is to provide a pathway back to employment for people with a work capacity who are already, or who will in the absence of support become, long-term unemployed,” she said.

“This policy objective prioritises scarce resources to persons who are signing on the live register for the requisite period of time. Accordingly, the employment services and schemes provided by the department are focused in the first instance on this cohort of unemployed people.”

Ms Burton said the State was also mindful that other jobseekers could benefit from support in accessing the labour market.

“Hence, it will continue to increase the level of awareness among these groups of the employment supports that are available to them,” she said.

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