"The Government’s proposed new Regional Employment Service fails to provide those outside of paid work with the person-centred service they need. It fails to capitalise on 25 years' plus of experience and professionalism of long-term non-profit providers of employment services. Following the Covid -19 employment catastrophe it works to dismantle existing proven service models in favour of an untested and unproved model at a time of national crisis."
Bray Area Partnership is joining with other Irish Local Development Network members around the country to support the network’s call on the Government to reconsider its new Pathways to Work Strategy, under which Local Employment Services and Jobs Clubs will cease at the end of 2021.
Local Development Companies like Bray Area Partnership have been delivering community-led employment services for 25 years on behalf of the Irish Government, assisting many people through person-centred guidance to enhance their life outcomes and progress to employment and enterprise.
Bray Area Partnership’s Local Employment Service Network provides one-to-one guidance support to around 1,000 individuals a year – supporting them to overcome barriers and progress into employment, training, education and labour market programmes.
The planned new national Regional Employment Service will replace existing Jobs Clubs and Local Employment Services with the JobPath-style model, with a fee paid per person referred that establishes a model with no recognition of progression to education, training and work programmes such as Community Employment and Tús.
There are real concerns that the proposed model is a poor one for clients and will lead to closures of Local Employment Services and Jobs Clubs. There is no evidence that the Department of Social Protection has taken into account mounting international evidence that supports the continuation of Community Local Employment Services.
This strategy will deprive lone parents, people with disabilities and the underemployed access to a walk-in, person-centred, community-based employment service and all the supports that such services provide for those unemployed due to COVID, the long-term unemployed, carers, women and other people removed from the jobs market.
Jobseekers will be faced with a centralised profit-driven, results-based process which will not be accessible to all jobseekers. The new model fails to provide for professional guidance which is central to the success of the present LES model.
At a minimum it will lead to job losses among the professional, highly-trained and experienced personnel currently employed in Local Employment Services and Jobs Clubs in Local Development Companies throughout the country.
The financial basis on which the new model is proposed is a huge risk to non-profit organisations, such as Local Development Companies. The payment by referral fee established as it is on all income being variable, versus the current budget set model (salaries overheads) places a huge risk on Local Development Companies as charities. It is very unfair to place this burden on not-for-profit Charitable Organisations.
This is a dangerous precedent in this time of crisis for the country, with privatisation now a real threat to the Community and Voluntary sector, which is made up of committed, experienced and innovative individuals and groups who have set up many community-led local development initiatives in the past three decades. It further erodes capacity in the sector for partnership, collaboration and interagency work critical to addressing the challenging social issues that impact on those living at risk of poverty and social exclusion.
There is now real fear that further Community-based programmes will move towards a model that monetises those most disadvantaged. The marketisation of social services is a real threat to client-centred value-driven service delivery. Marketisation undermines collaboration and professionalism in favour of hard cash bottom-line service management.
The Minister has committed to seeking the learnings from the first phase of the tender process. This needs to be undertaken through the establishment of a working group made up of all stakeholders to review the current process and outcomes and needs to be afforded sufficient time to make its report to government prior to any further rollout if this new and other alluded-to national employment service models.