Tuesday, 27 July 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
The Work Placement Experience Programme (WPEP) is a key policy initiative under Pillar 2 of the National Recovery Programme, launched by Government on 1 June 2021. It is also a central measure of the Government's new national employment services strategy; Pathways to Work 2021-2025. This sets out the national framework for activation and employment supports to assist persons, whose employment has been adversely affected by COVID, back to work while continuing to support those who were unemployed pre-pandemic.
The Pathways strategy sets out an ambitious plan for investment in training, education, skill development, work placement schemes, recruitment subsidies and jobs search. The focus is on helping persons who have lost jobs find, new ones, retrain and develop new skills, in particular in emerging growth sectors with new employment opportunities.
WPEP is a key policy initiative under this the new strategy. It is a funded work placement scheme to provide work experience for 10,000 jobseekers who have been unemployed for more than six months, including time spent on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), regardless of age. Participation on WPEP is entirely voluntary.
All participants will receive a personal weekly allowance of €306 per week regardless of age, other income or means. This is equivalent to the national minimum wage. In addition, participants will continue to receive any underlying social welfare entitlements for qualified adults and children and any underlying secondary welfare benefits they had an entitlement to prior to commencing a WPEP placement.
The WPEP programme is planned to run for two years with a total estimated cost of €95 million, with estimated expenditure this year of €11.5million, €61.2 million in 2022 and a further €22 million in 2023.
I was very pleased to launch the WPEP on Monday 12th July 2021. Placements will provide unemployed persons with valuable work experience, recognised internationally as being effective in assisting jobseekers find new jobs. All placements will provide training opportunities and in particular participants will be provided with opportunities to undertake accredited training as part of the programme. Options include a new QQI accredited work placement award which will be delivered by the Education and Training Boards at levels 3,4 and 5. In recognition of this training and development component of the scheme and the value of the new options for accredited and sector recognised learning, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Skills through the National Training Fund (NFT) is investing €27 million in the scheme. The NTF will be repaid if funding from the EU is secured under the National Resilience and Recovery Plan for this element of WPEP.
I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.