Project for young jobseekers leaves EU funds unspent

A pilot project to take young people off the dole will have to return EU money after failing to make use of it.

A pilot project aimed at taking young people off the dole under the EU’s Youth Guarantee scheme will have to return money to Europe after failing to make use of all its funding.

The flagship project, piloted in Ballymun, Dublin, finished in December, leaving as much as a third of its financial allocation unused and raising questions over whether future EU funding may be curtailed as a result.

An evaluation report on the project is to be published this morning and will show that around €100,000 of the €302,000 provided was left untouched.

The money was to be used to help people aged 18-24, classified as NEETs — not in education, employment, or training — to access jobs, internships, training schemes, or other educational programmes.

The EU provided €250,000 and the rest came from the Department of Social Protection. Ballymun was one of a dozen such projects piloted across the EU, which has €6bn to plough into future projects.

Of the approximately €200,000 that was used, €45,000 went on staff costs, but that included €14,000 in pay for two Department of Social Protection officials assigned to the project for short periods. A further €36,500 was set aside for evaluating the project and around €10,000 for overheads and travel.

The major underspend was in the area of work placement incentives and the use of external expertise to support the young people in becoming workplace-ready.

In a statement, the Department of Social Protection, which is in charge of the Youth Guarantee, said: “The project has been well-managed and will come in under budget”. It continued: “Maximum use was made of existing employment, further education, and training supports and services, tailoring these where necessary to facilitate access or improve outcomes. It was not necessary to draw down all of the potential funding available.”

A total of 739 young people took part in the pilot, 255 of whom were placed in employment, including community employment schemes, and 338 in training.

Mick Creedon, manager of the Ballymun Jobs Centre which was one of the local partners, said he was unaware of the underspend but still felt the project had performed better than anticipated.

“It certainly would have been better if they had found use for the money but I would hope Europe would not take a negative view of that. It was a pilot so the idea is you find out what works before you roll it out nationally.”

Local Labour TD John Lyons who lobbied to get the pilot for Ballymun said many of the barriers to employment for young people were structural — such as age and other eligibility criteria for training and community employment — and these were solved by changing the rules, not “throwing money at it”.

“The biggest thing is the results it achieved regardless of the money it spent and the fact of the matter is that the youth unemployment rate fell by 29% in Ballymun over the year of the pilot scheme versus that national fall in the same category of only 18.9%.”

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