Joan Burton TD, Minister for Social Protection, recently announced Pathways to Work, a radical new plan to get unemployed people back to work.
Speaking at the Digital Skills Academy Minister Burton said: “We will engage with every unemployed person to make sure that their first day out of work is also their first step on the pathway back to work. No-one who loses his/her job will be allowed to drift, without support, into long-term unemployment.”
“We will not repeat the mistakes of the 1980s and 1990s when unemployment remained high even after economic recovery took hold. This time, our people will be job-ready when the recovery comes,” she said.
Speaking at the launch, the Taoiseach said: “Pathways to Work is all about people and making sure that, when economic recovery comes, those who lost their jobs in the recession are not left behind. We are completely overhauling the way the State supports jobseekers by introducing best international practice. Pathways to Work will introduce a new code of rights and responsibilities where, in return for welfare support, jobseekers must actively seek employment or engage with employment or training services. When new job opportunities come we want unemployed people to be at the front of the queue. Pathways to Work is fundamentally linked to our Action Plan for Jobs.”
Pathways to Work is primarily focused on those who have been out of work for a year or more. The aim is to get 75,000 people who are currently long-term unemployed back into the workforce and to reduce the average time spent on the live register from 21 months today to less than 12 months by the end of 2015.
A key element of the Pathways to Work approach is the transformation of social welfare offices into new one-stop-shops in the first half of the year where clients can access their entitlements and get help with planning their return to work. Four will open in King’s Inn, Parnell Street, Dublin; Tallaght, Dublin; Arklow, Co. Wicklow and Sligo by May with a further ten coming on stream by the end of the year.
Customers will be asked to complete a profile questionnaire when they register with these one-stop-shops so that their case worker can assess the Probability of Exit (PEX) from unemployment during the subsequent 12 months and put the right supports in place. This will allow the Department of Social Protection to profile 150,000 customers this year.
Case workers will also hold group interviews with 30,000 customers this year as well as 130,000 one-to-one interviews with those most in need of assistance in returning to employment.
The Department of Social Protection will require people to engage with the Pathways to Work approach. The Department will also review the current rules and strengthen them where necessary to ensure that individuals do engage with Pathways to Work.
Also as part of the Pathways to Work process, claimants will sign a rights and responsibilities contract and commit to a progression plan with the Department of Social Protection.