Tuesday, 7 July 2015
Department of Social Protection
68. To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on the First Steps internship programme; her plans to proceed with the proposal to make the programme mandatory for participants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27277/15]
70. To ask the Minister for Social Protection the number of participants currently on the JobBridge scheme; the number under 25 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27279/15]
71. To ask the Minister for Social Protection the number of participants on the JobBridge scheme; the number under 25 years of age, since the introduction of the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27280/15]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 to 71, inclusive, together.
The First Steps programme is specifically targeted at those 18-24 year olds on the Live Register who are most distant from the labour market. The aim of the programme is to provide this cohort of young people with a work placement experience, where they gain the opportunity to learn and develop basic work and social skills in organisations in the private, public, voluntary and community sectors, that will help bring them closer to the labour market.
These are people who even at the peak of the Celtic tiger would have had difficulty securing employment. Employers are being asked to sponsor work experience opportunities for these young people, to give them a chance over an extended period and to stick with them, even if in the initial weeks the experience is less than good. The Department will also be working to support the participants. It will source pre-employment training and will assign a dedicated case officer to work with them for the duration of the internship.
Given the commitment that is being asked of employers and being offered by the Department, it is not unfair to ask that young people selected for the programme will offer a similar commitment. The Department will not be taking a heavy-handed approach, but failure to commit to a suitable opportunity must be considered in the context of the obligation on all persons in receipt of a jobseeker payment to demonstrate that they are making serious efforts to find work.
The scheme was formally launched in February 2015, and to date a total of 73 companies have signed up to First Steps offering 122 internship positions. There are currently 26 individuals on the scheme.
An econometric evaluation of the JobBridge Scheme will be undertaken by independent external consultants. The Request for Tender is due to issue later this month and we expect to have the contract awarded by early September. Preliminary findings from the evaluation should be available later in the year.
As of 25 June, a total of 40,993 individuals started a JobBridge internship since the scheme commenced, of which, 11,346 were under 25 years of age.
As at 25 June, there were a total of 5,258 individuals on a JobBridge internship, of which, 1,369 were under 25 years of age.