Community employment services must be protected from privatisation – Claire Kerrane TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has today re-launched proposals to protect the not-for-profit, community based model of the Local Employment Services (LES) and Job Clubs to ensure they are not hollowed out by the government.
The policy paper, Job Activation: Protecting the Not-For-Profit Model, was originally published by Teachta Kerrane in July and has been re-launched ahead of the party’s motion in the Dáil tomorrow which stands up for community employment services.
The document calls for the scaling up of the current community-based and people focused services.
Speaking at the launch today in Ballinasloe, Teachta Kerrane said:
“I originally launched this document in July of this year in response to the government’s shocking decision to continue with the tender for a new model of employment services, despite significant concerns. Unfortunately this issue remains unchanged since then and the government has failed to reverse their flawed approach.
“These considerable concerns and the consequences of the proposed changes to Local Employment Services and Job Clubs have been raised with the Minister for Social Protection time and time again. However, the government seem determined to pursue a plan of privatisation for ideological reasons.
“Our community employment services are under threat. Sinn Féin will stand with communities and end this assault on these vital services.
“Sinn Féin have long campaigned against privatisation of job activation services, like the disastrous JobPath scheme, which has cost close to €300m since 2015. We remain strongly opposed to the government’s most recent move to commercialise those seeking employment, which would put profit margins above the needs of ordinary people. This could push people into unsuitable, short-term positions just to tick a box. It also risks pricing out LES and Job Clubs which have a strong community approach and walk-in options which meet communities' needs.
“Shifting to an employment service model which is profit-focused, has no proven results and quite literally places quantity over quality, is unacceptable and will not support sustained employment in the State.
“In the document I am re-launching today, I set out the clear and deliverable alternative. We can take an approach which puts communities above short-term profit margins and ensure communities’ needs are met. My proposals outline how we can deliver scaling up of existing employment services, to ensure areas which do not currently have LES or Job Clubs can avail of these high-quality services.
“We want to ensure the availability of employment services for all, and the continuation of community-based wrap-around supports. Anyone in the job market should have access to walk-in services to assist them with finding sustainable employment.
“By integrating Job Clubs into the current model of LES, these important supports can be continued in the locations they currently operate in whilst maintaining affordability and complementing the work of the LES.
“More than ever as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, we need employment services which are fit to help people and give them the support they need to return to work. Privatisation of these services by Fine Gael must be resisted.
“Since the initial launch of my document, Phase 1 of the tender process has been completed, amid serious concerns about the impact this will have on provision of these crucial services and those that provide them. As set out in the document, there are also real threats of job losses in employment services, as a result of existing non-profit providers being financially unable to tender in Phase 1. We cannot see this process continue.
“I am urging the government to look closely at my proposals and stand with communities on this important issue. Sinn Féin in government would ensure communities’ needs are met. We have the detailed and deliverable proposals to ensure this long-overdue change finally comes about.”