Dáil debates

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Employment Support Services

10:10 pm

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

The reason I raise this issue is that the workers in placement and the staff in this very successful service located in my neighbourhood of Bluebell, but covering all of Dublin west, have been told that the service is to close at the end of the year. Those who have a physical or mental disability and who were returning to the workplace or beginning work for the first time have been able to engage with EmployAbility in west Dublin and be supported in advance of a job being found for them. The supporting specialists involved, seven in total, I believe, worked with up to 130 people annually and supported them and the employers to ensure they could overcome any challenges that may arise in their first 18 months of employment.

I am aware from local people who have come through the services of the great scheme that exists and the work that is involved. It would be a tragedy if the service were to disappear. Some of those who are currently in this supported employment environment would overnight, on 31 December, lose their job coaches. They might not rely on them each day, but they know they are there in the event of a problem arising. I am told that EmployAbility has 70 workers on its books at present and, of them, 30 will still be in supported employment when the closure happens. The only reason for the low numbers at present, as 130 people are normally in the service, is that EmployAbility has not been taking Department of Social Protection referrals since the summer in preparation for the closure. The Department should be well aware of the imminent closure at this stage and should have taken steps to address the issues I will outline.

There are another 23 EmployAbility services across the country. I believe they are independent of each other and I am not sure if other services are contemplating closure due to either inadequate Department of Social Protection funding, the predicted privatisation of services that is happening with the tender which is undermining the local employment service, LES, and jobs clubs or otherwise. However, there is an imperative here. The Department must step in and ensure a seamless transfer of the services to another service provider and the continued employment of the seven or eight support specialists, who have years of experience between them. Failing this, all those in supported employment must be engaged with in advance of the closure date and reassured by the Department that the Department will take care of their needs. The Department of Social Protection must also take it upon itself to reassign others who were due to be placed with EmployAbility in west Dublin to other appropriate services, given the already identified needs they have, and to ensure that they can continue to engage with the workplace.

There is also a need for the Department of Social Protection or the St. John of God organisation, which is also involved in this project, to resolve who is going to pay for the redundancy of the workers, who between them have from 20 to five years service. Both organisations will continue to exist after the closure date, but EmployAbility in west Dublin appears to be closing on 31 December so the workers will have to fight to get their redundancy packages. It is only the statutory amount of two weeks per year of loyal work, whereas they deserve a great deal more. They also deserve to have their redundancy package resolved in advance of them being made redundant at the end of December.


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