The Department of Social Protection has strongly defended the JobBridge scheme amid calls for it to be scrapped.
The calls follow a series of reports criticising the operation of the scheme. Yesterday, it was revealed that the number of people dropping out of the national internship programme early each year is almost as high as those who are completing the scheme.
This followed reports that JobBridge had been used to fill hundreds of positions in State agencies and corporations such as the HSE, the GAA and Hewlett-Packard.
Just last week, the Irish Examiner revealed Department of Social Protection had reversed its decision to ban all firms where it was alleged that interns had been assaulted and bullied, had their safety compromised or were forced to work unfair hours.
A total of 86 companies had received some form of ban from the scheme since it began in 2011, but no businesses had received suspensions from JobBridge since a November decision to lift the existing suspensions.
However, in a statement, the Department of Social Protection hit out at the recent media coverage which, it said, “had focussed almost exclusively on the relatively small instances of abuse or misuse of the scheme”.
“While any misuse of the scheme is regrettable, it should be remembered that JobBridge was introduced in July 2011 as a rapid response to the sharp increase in unemployment resulting from the unprecedented collapse in the economy. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were being lost and unemployed jobseekers found it difficult to compete for those that were available,” said a statement.
The Department pointed out that since the scheme was introduced in 2011, 18,500 organisations had provided internships to some 46,500 jobseekers. It said that around 60% of these went on to get paid employment within five months of completing an internship.
Over the weekend, the IMPACT trade union called for JobBridge to be dissolved following its widespread misuse in the health service and elsewhere.Fianna Fáil, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and the Workers Party have also called for the scheme to be scrapped.
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