Written answers

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Employment Schemes

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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75. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason she is proceeding to a new model of local employment service delivery; the cost basis on which the new model will be delivered; the relevant technical and previous experience necessary for a potential tender applicant; the proposed timeline for the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48415/21]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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My Department is now at an advanced stage in its first phase of procuring new employment services. This phase involves the procurement of regional employment services for seven counties in the Midlands and North-West across four lots. These counties do not have an existing local employment service and represent the first phase of an expansion of similar employment services across.

This procurement process follows extensive consultations by my Department with the existing service providers over the last number of years.

The Phase two procurement, which will see the Regional Employment Service model rolled out across the State will take on board the learnings of the first phase. This is a significant expansion of employment services and will result in State-wide coverage of employment services for those furthest from the labour market for the first time.

The timeline for commencement of the new Regional Employment Services under Phase two was originally January 2022. This has now been postponed to the end of June 2022, giving potential tenderers additional time to prepare collaborative joint bids.

My Department is therefore in the process of offering current Local Employment Service and Job Club providers, in the Phase two areas, a new contract for a short period into next year. This will enable continuity of service to our customers, while providing potential tenders additional time to work collaboratively on submitting joint bids. The Requests for Tenders for Phase two will issue prior to the end of this year and my Department has written to relevant service providers outlining the revised timelines.

The reasons for proceeding with this procurement of employment services are two-fold.

Firstly, the existing LES contracts are no longer consistent with current best practices. The new model entails moving to multi-annual contracts with enhanced key performance indicators and a funding model that allows more autonomy on how best to deliver enhanced services and greater visibility of the performance of all service providers.

Secondly, the Department is in receipt of legal advice from the Attorney General's office that it must procure its employment services in an open and competitive manner in order to meet its legal obligations arising from EU and national procurement rules.

I understand and appreciate the concerns of the sector at the changes to the existing model. However, current service providers with a strong track record and a willingness to cooperate with others in the sector will be well-placed to submit high-quality tenders for the new services.

The new model and its associated procurement process is accessible to the community and voluntary sectors given the model's significant emphasis on service quality and the need to harness local networks and linkages to best support the clients of the new employment service.


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