Sinn Fein TD Ruairi O Murchu
Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú has said that Local Employment Services (LES), in their current community-based and not-for-profit form, must be protected.
His comments come as the services, including the one run by Louth Leader Partnership in Dundalk, are set to go out to tender, which the governments insists is required to comply with EU procurement rules.
Deputy Ó Murchú said: ‘The rollout of JobPath in 2015 signalled a move towards the privatisation of job activation services.
‘Since then, there has been an emphasis on referrals to the JobPath providers, Seetec and Turas Nua, above all other existing schemes, including the LES. This preference for JobPath has not gone unnoticed.
‘The LES, which has been in existence in Dundalk for 25 years, offers a unique service - not just to those referred to them but, crucially, through their walk-in service.
‘The private companies get referrals from the Department of Social Protection and those already linked in with services, ignoring a significant cohort who are accommodated in the LES.
‘The LES are person-centred and additional wraparounds are also available. This is a service that we must protect.
‘There is a network of statutory and non-statutory organisations that are already linked in with Louth Leadership Partnership and these are used to good effect when making the correct placements for people.
‘The LES concentrates on the person in front of them, working to tailor solutions for them in many aspects of their lives, not just focusing like the private companies, on getting them out of the service, into a job and getting paid for their results.
‘While it is welcome that the government says the LES is set to be expanded to parts of the state without such a service, through the first phase of the tendering process, it must be maintained in its current structure. There can be no dismantling of the community and not-for-profit ethos.
‘There are legitimate concerns that the Department is moving towards a fully privatised model of job activation - this is not something we in Sinn Féin support.
‘Considering the millions of taxpayers’ money handed over to the JobPath providers for very poor return for sourcing sustainable employment, we cannot allow this privatisation agenda to creep into community services like the LES.
‘I have spoken to Ciarán Reid, chief executive of Louth Leader Partnership about the concerns he and others who run similar schemes have and I have assured him that we will vehemently oppose any plans to change how the LES is delivered.
‘The service remains cost effective and extremely successful - this cannot be eroded to make room for private companies to line their pockets’.