Tuesday, 16 November 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Employment Support Services
I am replying on behalf of the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, who could not be present. I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for raising this issue. He is correct that the work that is carried on through the 24 providers of the EmployAbility service is essential and successful. The job coaching has been a great support for many over the years.
The Department of Social Protection contracts with 24 providers to deliver employability services. These services supplement the Department’s internal Intreo service through the provision of targeted supports for jobseekers with a disability. I can confirm that the Department recently offered a contract to the board of EmployAbility in west Dublin to provide services for a further year in 2022. The board has formally declined this offer and, regrettably, the Department must respect the decision of the board. I wish to be clear that it is the decision of the board, not forced on it by the Department. It would be inappropriate for me to comment in detail on matters particular to a third-party contractor. However, it is my understanding from the intensive engagement the Department has had with this contractor over the recent period that the decision not to recontract is entirely an internal matter, unrelated to the terms and conditions of the contract for service with the Department. It is not the case, as the Deputy said, that it is to do with inadequate funding or with predicted or assumed changes coming down the track. They are not the reasons.
As the Deputy is aware, the Department of Social Protection is reviewing the structure and procurement of all its externally contracted employment support services. The provision of the EmployAbility service, its procurement and its structure will form part of this review. Over the course of next year, the Department will be examining options regarding the design of the EmployAbility model, and the provision of services in the former area of operations of EmployAbility in west Dublin will form part of these design considerations. That work has not happened yet, so what is going to happen there cannot be assumed or predicted. As part of this process the Department will engage with all relevant stakeholders.
As always, the first option for any person seeking assistance in returning to or improving their prospects in the workforce, whether in receipt of a jobseeker’s payment or not, is to contact the Department’s Intreo service. Intreo case officers will be able provide the necessary professional support and assistance and, if appropriate, identify any further service that the person may benefit from accessing. I therefore encourage anyone in the area who is seeking employment advice and support to contact his or her local Intreo office, which will provide the person with the necessary supports and advice. That is what the offices do daily. In many areas they engage extra help and assistance through external providers. If that is not available, the Intreo office will do the work itself. I should be clear about that. In all cases, a case worker would be employed to guide somebody through the system. The Deputy has engaged as a member and chair of the committee quite a lot over the years so he knows the value of the work that is carried out through the Intreo offices, along with many of their external service providers as well.