Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on the government to remove the profit-focused approach set out in a tender for the expansion of Local Employment Services (LES).
The request for tender is open to applications for the rollout of a new model of contracted public employment service in four areas. This is the first of two tenders. The terms included in the tender have caused significant concern about the quality and future of Local Employment Services.
Speaking having raised concerns with An Tánaiste in the Dáil last week, Teachta Kerrane said:
“Having been kept in the dark about the changes to Local Employment Services for so long, we are finally seeing a Request For Tender which encourages a ruthless shift to ‘services’ which focus on profit over people.
“There had been much concern that the tender would threaten the community-based and not-for-profit ethos of existing services, which have been very successful and are well-regarded. The reality is much, much worse and is a serious cause for concern.
“The ‘payment by results’ model put forward in the tender tells us that the government are looking to implement employment services which focus on quantity over quality.
“We heard last week that the government plan to accelerate employment, which is welcome. However, forcing people into a cycle of jobs which are not suitable or sustainable is unacceptable.
“This is not the person-centred approach so successfully fostered by the Local Employment Services and will only result in a focus on profit-driven results which leaves those who need these services behind. What we are seeing proposed is ‘JobPath 2.0’.
“Sinn Féin have long campaigned against privatisation of job activation services, like the disastrous JobPath scheme, which has cost close to €300m since 2015. We remain strongly opposed to the government’s move to a commercialised and commodified model of employment service provision.
“We recognise that the Local Employment Service is sought-after, but the service is currently unavailable in several Counties. 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 model of Local Employment Services to ensure continuity of quality and reputation of these services.
“People deserve quality employment services and we know that organisations already working in this area have experience, expertise and ethics at the heart of the work they do. We are calling on the Minister for Social Protection to withdraw and review this tender immediately.
“Existing local employment services must be protected, and we will oppose any attempt by government to profit from the exploitation of people.”