Wednesday, 8 October 2014
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
I congratulate the Minister on her promotion and look forward to working with her constructively over the remainder of this Government's term. I seek clarification on what discussions the Minister has had with the Minister for Social Protection on the use of the JobBridge scheme in the education sector.
I indicated that I would engage with my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, to make sure the principles of the JobBridge scheme were maintained and that there was no abuse of the scheme. I can confirm that I have spoken to her about this matter. We have had quite detailed discussions on the issue. We also discussed the potential for the scheme to allow newly qualified teachers gain valuable experience and facilitate the probationary process.
I intend to work closely with the Tánaiste to ensure that, in as far as possible, the above objectives are achieved. That discussion is ongoing.
As the Deputy knows, the Department of Social Protection monitors JobBridge advertisements and proposals daily, including those in the education sector.
Does the Minister agree that using JobBridge to advertise teaching positions is a form of exploitation by schools? Positions for SNAs and teachers have been advertised on JobBridge, but the purpose of that scheme when first announced was as a pathway to work. People were to have a realistic opportunity of gaining employment after participation in a JobBridge scheme. Can the Minister provide any figures on the number of people who have taken up JobBridge schemes within the education sector and secured full-time employment as a result? I would imagine that figure is zero.
The general figures for JobBridge are positive, in terms of people moving on from it to full-time employment. I do not have the figures in regard to the Department of Education and Skills because they are held by the Department of Social Protection. I am not sure the specific figures are available, but will get them if I can.
There are clear rules in regard to JobBridge and positions offered under the scheme cannot displace jobs. The Department of Education and Skills monitors this in regard to jobs in the sector. It is a decision for schools as to whether to employ people under JobBridge, for example as SNAs, and those jobs advertised are additional to the schools' SNA allocation. There has been a steady increase in the allocation of SNAs in recent years because of need, but the JobBridge positions must be additional to posts already allocated. The position is similar in regard to teaching. Any position advertised cannot displace a teacher job. We do not allow JobBridge positions in schools for caretakers and cleaners.
It is vital to ensure that JobBridge positions are not displacements and that they provide opportunities for moving on into full-time, permanent employment. The statistics for JobBridge in general are quite positive in that regard. If I can, I will get the specific statistics on the education sector and send them to the Deputy.
I am interested in seeing those figures, because the last time we asked about the number of teachers and SNAs engaged in JobBridge schemes who went on to full-time employment, the figure was zero. I am interested in seeing whether there has been any progress on that.
I believe filling positions in schools through JobBridge is a form of exploitation. The reason schools are being forced into advertising through JobBridge is the lack of investment in education over the past number of years. There is no doubt there is an increased number of students in need of an SNA, but the increased number of SNA posts allocated by the Department fails to meet that need. As a result, schools are being forced to advertise through JobBridge to make up for the reduced number of teachers and SNAs available for front-line services. The use of JobBridge in education is a form of exploitation, not a pathway to work. The figures bear this out.
The National Council for Special Education allocated over 10,900 special needs assistant posts for the 2014-15 school year. This significant number of posts is an increase on previous years. The Department makes clear that JobBridge is not a substitute for those posts and it in no way interferes with a school's normal allocation of either SNAs or teachers.
I do not have the statistics the Deputy said he received previously, but I will try to get those figures. In some cases, a person might not get a full-time job immediately after being on a JobBridge scheme, but might get one some months later. We will try to get as broad based figures as we can on the statistics.