Ten measures the Department of Social Protection is Taking to Speed Up Progress On the Employment Front

Helping Jobseekers Return to Work


DSp LogoThe latest Live Register figures show a continuing reduction in unemployment. There were 358,672 people on the Register in January 2015, a decrease of 40,958, or 10.2%, compared with the same month last year. The unemployment rate now stands at 10.5%, down from a crisis peak of 15.1%.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, T.D. has made clear that the Government’s target is to reduce unemployment to below 10% by the end of 2015, and with this in mind, the following is a short but not exhaustive list of some of the key measures the Department of Social Protection is taking as part of the Pathways to Work and Action Plan for Jobs strategies to speed up the progress on the employment front and help jobseekers return to work.

The Action Plan for Jobs, overseen by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, is designed to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, jobs-rich economy, while Pathways to Work, overseen by the Department of Social Protection, aims to ensure that as many as possible of those newly created jobs go to people on the Live Register.

This year, the Department of Social Protection will engage over 80,000 jobseekers in direct supports through these measures, in addition to supports available to all jobseekers through its Intreo offices and other centres.  In total, over €1 billion will be invested in these measures in 2015.

1.   Incentivising jobseekers with children
The Back to Work Family Dividend is a new scheme introduced in the Budget to help jobseekers with families, including lone parents, to return to employment, including self-employment.  Under the scheme, jobseekers returning to work retain the element of the welfare payment which they receive for their children.

Currently, those in receipt of jobseeker’s or one-parent family payments receive an additional increase of €29.80 per week for each child they have, a payment known as an Increase for a Qualified Child.  Under the Back to Work Family Dividend, these jobseekers will retain that payment of €29.80 a week for each child (subject to a maximum of 4 children) in full for the first year in employment, and will retain half the payment – or €14.90 per child – for the second year in employment.

This means that over the two years, a family with one child will receive additional support of €2,324 to supplement wages. A family with two children will receive €4,649; those with three children will get €6,973, while those with four or more will get €9,298. It should be noted that the Back to Work Family Dividend is an additional in-work support over and above the Family Income Supplement. Payment of the Back to Work Family Dividend has no impact on a family’s entitlement to the Family Income Supplement.

Jobseekers who wish to compare their potential earnings from employment to what they receive in Social Welfare payments can use the Department’s Benefit of Work Calculator at:  https://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/Benefit-of-Work-Ready-Reckoner-Introduction.aspx.

2.   Incentivising businesses and employers
JobsPlus, the employer incentive scheme, works in collaboration with businesses to hire jobseekers from the Live Register by providing monthly cash payments to offset wage costs. Since its launch, it has already helped nearly 5,000 jobseekers return to work – nearly two-thirds of whom had been unemployed for two years or more.  Around 3,000 employers have received direct cash support to date.

The scheme involves a payment of €7,500 over two years to the employer for each person recruited who has been unemployed for between 12 and 24 months. This equates to approximately €312 a month.

Employers can receive an enhanced grant of €10,000 paid over two years when a jobseeker is recruited who has been unemployed for more than 24 months. This equates to approximately €416 a month.

Today, the Tánaiste announced a new strand of the scheme, JobsPlus Youth aimed specifically at assisting jobseekers under the age of 25 [see separate statement attached].

3.   Focusing on young people
As part of the Government’s response to the EU recommendation for a Youth Guarantee, the Department of Social Protection, together with the Department of Education, has introduced and/or reserved places on a number of employment and training programmes for young people.  Over 21,000 young people benefitted from these places during 2014 and a total of about 28,000 places will be available to young people in 2015.  Youth unemployment has fallen from a crisis peak of 31% to about 23% now, and the number of young people who are long-term unemployed has fallen from 36,000 to circa 17,000.

Today, the Tánaiste announced First Steps which will offer young jobseekers aged between 18 and 25 the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and training [see separate statement attached].

4.   Employment Charter
Employers who sign this Charter commit that at least 50% of candidates considered for employment will be taken from the Live Register and also commit to work with the Department to host events and workshops for jobseekers. Forty six companies have signed up since its launch, including Tesco Ireland, Paypal, Glanbia, Dublin Bus and Diageo.

5.   Starting your own business
The Department has continued to support jobseekers interested in taking up self-employment and starting a business by working with local development companies and other agencies in providing income support under the Back to Work Programme and practical supports, including funds for mentoring, under the new Enterprise Support Grant introduced in 2014.

6.   Improving education and skill levels
Improving skill levels and accessing accredited training and education is a key goal of many jobseekers while waiting for a recovery in the jobs market.  The Department has revised its supports for jobseekers under its Back to Education and other training support programmes and has worked closely with the Department of Education, Solas and the Education and Training Boards in ensuring the courses of education and training pursued are aligned with the future skill needs of the economy and emerging job opportunities.  Under Momentum some 8,000 training places have been provided to long-term jobseekers.  Improvements have been made in the roll-out of Intreo centres in supports to jobseekers wishing to consider education and training opportunities.

7.   Maintaining work readiness and providing on the job training
Maintaining work readiness and providing on the job training Community employment will continue to enhance the skillset of jobseekers distant from the labour market through the combination of training, skill development and work experience.

At the same time, over a 1,000 CE schemes will provide valuable support to local communities through the support of local community services e.g. childcare, social care services and upkeep of the local environment.

Over 25,000 opportunities will be provided during 2015 with further innovation in training and work opportunities.

Tús, the community work placement initiative – and Gateway, an initiative the Department operates with county and city councils, will provide some 11,000 opportunities for jobseekers to maintain their work readiness and enable community organisations and local authorities to enhance the services they deliver to the public.

JobBridge has been successful in marrying jobseekers to employers through short-term internships.  These provide the opportunity for the jobseeker to gain valuable experience in a working environment to those looking to explore or gain the relevant knowledge and skills required to enter into a particular career field or identify new and different opportunities.

Taken together, these initiatives support jobseekers the opportunity to be involved in work and to identify other training and employment opportunities that can support their return to the jobs market as conditions improve and opportunities arise.

8.   Helping jobseekers find work and identify other opportunities
The Department has developed and rolled out a new approach to helping jobseekers find work – Intreo.  As part of Intreo, the provision of employment services is integrated with the provision of welfare services and jobseekers have faster and more systematic access to tailored support from the Department’s case officers.  The Intreo process is now live in 59 of the Department’s 60 local offices.

9.   Creation of dedicated Employer Services Division within the Department
This Division works closely with employers on a one-to-one basis to help employers fill vacancies and to promote recruitment from the Live Register. The Division also takes the lead in organising and promoting events such as JobsWeek in which over 200 employers participated in hosting events for nearly 20,000 jobseekers and also works with agencies such as Skillnets and Feeding Ireland’s future to offer work experience and training placements to jobseekers.

10.   Supplementing employment services – reaching more jobseekers
JobPath is the Department’s new employment programme which will assist an estimated 115,000 long-term unemployed jobseekers return to work over its duration and produce significant expenditure savings.  Under JobPath, the two preferred bidders, Turas Nua Ltd and Seetec Business Technology Centre Ltd, will provide additional employment services which will compliment and augment – not replace – the Department’s own employment services.

Between them, the preferred bidders expect to employ some 1,000 staff either directly or indirectly via subcontractors, in approximately 100 outlets across the country to assist the long-term unemployed in finding suitable employment and training options.  Both providers will work with a range of local subcontractors, including local training companies and Local Employment Service (LES) providers, in the delivery of JobPath.