Thursday, 3 June 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
308. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the criteria used to develop a new model for employment services; the engagement that had taken place with existing providers of local employment services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30344/21]
My Department has recently published a request for tender (RFT) for employment services for seven counties in the north-west and midlands. These new services, in areas of the State where no Local Employment Services (LES) currently operate, will constitute a significant expansion of employment services. My Department expects to have these new services up and running in the third quarter of this year. This RFT has no impact on existing Local Employment Service providers.
The current approach for contracting with the existing Local Employment Services has been in place for over 20 years, with no formal competitive procurement being undertaken during that period. This is not in compliance with the requirements of good governance or national and EU procurement rules. My Department is, therefore, developing a series of RFTs to be published later in the year to procure contracted employment service provision including those delivered by the Local Employment Services.
The revised employment services models are informed by the 2019 Indecon Reviews of Job Clubs and Local Employment Services, a more recent external consultants review of employment services and the necessity of complying with legal advice to competitively procure future employment services contracts. This legal advice is unequivocal and ignoring it would potentially expose my Department to legal challenge.
My Department engaged comprehensively with the sector in the lead-up to this procurement process, with site visits to all local employment services and job clubs and extensive engagement with the Irish Local Development Network, the umbrella body for most LES and job clubs. In addition, the external consultants engaged by the Department consulted with a cross section of the sector in the preparation of its review.
Organisations, including LES and Job Club providers, with strong experience in the delivery of similar services at a community and local level, will be in a strong position to work collaboratively in responding to the RFTs when they issue.