Pathways to Work strategy must be people-focused and detail-driven - Claire Kerrane TD and Louise O'Reilly TD
Following the launch of the long-awaited ‘Pathways to Work 2021-2025’ strategy today, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane TD and spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Louise O'Reilly TD have said that any drive to address unemployment must be underpinned by a focus on supporting people re-entering the job market and on securing sustainable employment.
Teachta Kerrane said:
"As we emerge from the pandemic, we must build back better by creating a fairer and stronger economy. People need support to return to work to sustainable jobs, so that they can return to the workforce once again. They need to see an ambitious, deliverable plan which will deliver this and meet their needs.
“We welcome that the Government have finally published their ‘Pathways to Work’ strategy which has been lauded as a cornerstone of their plans to support workers and employers as we emerge from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“However, while we are seeing ambitious figures being presented with regard to tackling unemployment, it is important that plan is grounded in supporting people securing suitable and sustainable employment.
“It is positive that the Minister has announced intentions to provide jobs, placements and schemes for people seeking work, but we are still seeing a ‘jobs first’ approach rather than the people-focused services that we know work.
“Detail matters for ensuring any strategy supports sustainable employment, and it would appear the devil is really in the detail for this Government.
“Ensuring people can find good and meaningful employment requires a joined-up approach to the services and supports from both an employment and social welfare perspective. Some of the measures announced today are welcome in their direction, but directly contradict previous actions taken by this Government.
"The announced Work Placement Programme will have a weekly rate of €306 – this is more than 2.5 times the current rates of Jobseekers payments for young people. The Government have stated themselves that this rate was set in line with labour standards, yet continue to set Jobseekers payments for 18-25 year olds below the poverty line at €112.70 per week.
"Young people have been failed time and time again by successive Governments, and we must ensure supports for young people out of and returning to work are comprehensive. We cannot have a return to schemes which only serve to exploit young people.
"How the Work Placement Programme is rolled out and which employers are involved will matter, too. The previous Youth Employment Support Scheme for Employers had a very low-uptake and is now closed, so engagement with the right employers is important to ensure it can be successful.
"The strategy also includes commitments to ‘Leave No one Behind’, but the very changes the Government themselves are making to employment services means those furthest from the labour market will be left behind. Dismantling existing services which support people with disabilities, lone parents, older people and others outlined in the strategy does not suggest a service which works for all.
"It is crucial that this Pathways to Work Strategy aligns skills, experience and needs of those who are seeking work, particularly people who have been long-term unemployed, with the placements that are on offer to them.
“Ensuring a practical and people-focused approach is important to driving sustainable employment."
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“A decade ago, exploitative programmes like JobBridge and Gateway were the order of the day, social welfare rates were slashed as a means of pushing young people towards the boat and the airplane, and emigration was rife in order to escape austerity and a lack of opportunity.
“Therefore, it is critical that the Government’s ‘Pathways to Work’ strategy, which aims to get people back to work post-pandemic, does not return to these exploitative or short-term measures which seek to massage the live register figures.
“‘Pathways to Work’ will be judged on the delivery of real meaningful support through the provision of education and training opportunities on one hand and measures that help create decent employment opportunities on the other."