Government jobs scheme letting down those it was intended to target

A state-led back to work intitiative is hindering the job prospects of those it was originally designed to help, irate ex-members claimed this week.

A state-led back to work intitiative is hindering the job prospects of those it was originally designed to help, irate ex-members claimed this week.

North Longford duo Kevin Connell and John Flynn were one of three successful applicants to be assigned to the Government’s community work placement scheme, Tus, last January.

Precisely 12 months on, the pair now face the daunting prospect of re-joining the county’s lengthening dole queues after reaching the end of their one-year service limit.

“Why couldn’t they have left us doing what we have done for the past year? It was a great job, but now we are expected to go out and find work when there just isn’t any,” said former community worker John Flynn this week.

Both John and his ex-colleague Kevin Connell signed their names to the scheme after falling foul of the property downturn and as the nation sinked deeper into recession.

Having formally started work in Abbeylara village on January 25 2012, the pair carried out a series of everyday chores from sweeping to grass-cutting and general maintenance work, all for an extra €20 a week in their social welfare payments.

With those benefits having come to an end, the pair see little by way of alternative employment coming their way.

“There’s nothing out there,” said a clearly aggrieved Kevin Connell at the weekend. “Like, where do you go after a year?”

One of those to similarly raise question marks over the scheme’s current workings was Abbeylara Tidy Towns chairman Denis Fahy.

“These fellas have done great work for the village. They knew what jobs needed doing and would just come in, do their work and go home. Now, we have to train in a new set of people to do what these lads have done so well over the past year,” said Denis.

Under a recently devised governmental review, Department of Social Protection officials warned of people becoming too “institutionalised” if they remained on the scheme too long.

The review pointed to a one-year limit for unemployed people and lone parents as part of a shake-up of the unemployment training system.

The only exceptions, it highlighted, were people with disabilities, who will be allowed to stay for two years, while recovering drug addicts will be allowed to stay for three years.

However, local Cllr PJ Reilly said he plans on taking up the issue with Social Protection Minister Joan Burton directly in order to improve the plight of former community workers like John and Kevin.

“It needs extending, even if it is for another 12 months or two years,” he said. “The biggest joke about the system is that even if you are a farmer, builder or tradesman, now that these men are off the scheme they are not even entitled to apply for a day’s work.”