The new Intreo Centre at the Department of Social Protection’s offices on the Ballinalee Road in Longford town were officially opened by Minister Joan Burton on Monday.
Intreo, which has been billed as a ‘one-stop shop’ for jobseekers, will provide income and employment support in one place for the first time.
“Traditionally, Social Welfare was largely about making payments to people who needed income support,” the Minister said at the launch, adding that, “We want to work with employers so we don’t simply give income support, but get people back to work.
“I have focused on transforming the Department from a passive benefits provider to an active and engaged employment service through the Pathways to Work strategy. The transformation of our local welfare offices into Intreo Centres is one of the central elements of that strategy.”
Referring to programmes available to jobseekers locally, the Minister for Social Protection said 286 spaces are available in 15 Community Employment schemes, while 100 places are available on the Tús scheme in the county.
She also explained that some 142 jobseekers in Co Longford had completed a JobBridge internship to date, with a further 41 currently participating in the programme locally.
When asked if she thought these figures were disappointing for a county with over 5,700 people on the live register, the Minister responded by saying, “It’s a voluntary scheme which we make available to host organisations. As we speak, there’s a fair number of community and voluntary organisations also beginning to get involved. I would suspect myself that when they start to come through, numbers might go up a bit.” Minister Burton went on to say that, “What we’re finding around Ireland is that in a lot of cases people finish the internship after about four months because they’re actually offered employment.
“Certainly with the new office it’s something we should be able to do [expand the scheme locally].”
Questioned about the lack of IDA visits to County Longford in recent years, and the knock-on effect it has had for jobseekers in the area, Minister Burton assured she would be taking up the matter with the relevant Government department.
“Certainly, I will bring it up as I do frequently with my colleague, the Minister for Jobs and Enterprise,” she replied. “It is so important that when foreign direct investment comes into Ireland - and we have been very successful at getting our share - and when indigenous Irish enterprises develop, that if they’re taking on one person or 100 people, that people on the live register, who have such a wealth of talent, get an opportunity to pitch for those jobs and to get some of that employment.
“The longer your spell of unemployment lasts, the more difficult it is to get placed, and that’s when you need a stepping-stone to get back to work.”