Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has voiced concerns about the future of Job Clubs as part of the proposed changes to Employment Services.
The Regional Employment Service (RES) model has been introduced as part of a Request for Tender launched by the government.
The tender seeks to roll out this new model to the seven counties which do not have employment services later this year. They will then replace the existing Local Employment Services (LES) in other Counties as part of a second tender process.
Under the new model the government intend to merge Job Clubs with employment services which means this important support will cease to exist. The end of Job Clubs is one of many concerns raised by the proposed changes to employment services.
Speaking after raising the issue with Minister Humphreys at Committee today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“We are hearing more and more concerning updates following the launch of the Request for Tender for a new model employment services.
“Not only is the success of the Local Employment Services under threat, we are now finding out that important Job Club services will likely no longer exist under the proposed changes.
“I raised the future of Job Clubs, which provide a crucial practical and individualised supports to those seeking employment, in Committee this morning. The Minister advised that LES and Job Club will be merged, which means that this important drop-in service will no longer exist.
“Before the tender was launched, we had heard that those working in employment services would be ‘pleasantly surprised’ with the new model. Instead what has been put out for tender is worse than they could have imagined and continues to worsen as we find out more.
“The Minister stated today that the changes to these services are being made with those seeking employment in mind. If important supports like Job Clubs cease to be available, it is hard to see how the proposed model will do that.
“All of this is in addition to existing concerns that the new RES model is focused on profit over people. Various stakeholders have expressed worry that these changes will only serve to push those who need employment services most further away from the labour market. We cannot see this happen.
“While the extension of employment services to areas which do not currently have them is welcome, commercialisation is not the answer. Instead, we propose the scaling up of the existing people-centred model of Local Employment Services to ensure continuity of quality and reputation of these services.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, many people looking for jobs will need supportive employment services now more than ever.”