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First Steps is a compulsory JobBridge for Ireland’s Youth – Senator Reilly

20 February, 2015

Speaking about the recent government launch of ‘First Steps’, a new work activation scheme for young people aged 18-25, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly has described the scheme as having scant detail and draconian in its compulsory nature.

Senator Reilly said:

“In recent weeks the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, and Minister for Employment, Community and Social Support, Kevin Humphries, unveiled  ‘First Steps’, a mandatory youth employment activation scheme aimed at young people.

“The scheme is simply a dressed up JobBridge for 18-25 year olds, who as it stands can already participate in JobBridge. However, there are subtle differences; there will be a limited period of pre-training, and a four day working week with the fifth allocated to job searching and mentoring.

“However, the main difference between the schemes was outlined by Minster Joan Burton in response to a Sinn Féin Parliamentary Question:

“There is no application procedure for jobseekers for the First Steps programme. Jobseekers will be selected… and participation of jobseekers on the First Steps programme, once referred, will be non-discretionary and subject to conditionality and penalty rate legislation should they fail without good cause to attend in accordance with the activation process.”

“Furthermore, at the launch of ‘First Steps’, Minister Kevin Humphries outlined that “First Steps builds on experience over the past two years of placing young people into work training and experience programmes with employers such as Tesco…”.

“In the same way as JobBridge offers companies’ free labour and displaces entry-level jobs, First Steps is to do just the same; except this time it will force young people to undertake these internships.”

“While the government will casually throw out statistics on a reduction in youth unemployment and use this to justify JobBridge and promote First Steps, the unfortunate reality is that 165,300 young people have emigrated in the last five years and there are more than 10,000 less young people in the work now compared with when the government took office.

“This week Sinn Féin TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, launched ‘Displacing JobBridge: Sinn Fein’s proposal for an alternative internship scheme’. The document flies in the face of government rhetoric about the success of JobBridge and proposes an alternative, participant centred model for internships. The government should give close consideration to this document before rushing to create any more work activation schemes.”

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