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BIPA Committee calls for new approach for back to work schemes

Added 23-Feb-2010

The Environment and Social Affairs Committee of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly has presented a report and recommendations on "Returning the Unemployed to Work" to the 40th plenary conference of the BIPA in Cavan.

The report calls on governments in the United Kingdom and Ireland to review and amend a number of policies designed to reduce unemployment in Britain and Ireland, in particular changing specific "back-to-work" schemes to make them more innovative, inclusive and tailored to the needs of local communities. The Committee looked both at the long-term unemployed, as well as those made unemployed as a result of the recession.

As part of the Committee's investigation, members visited Rhyl in north Wales where the Rhyl City Strategy operates as one of 17 UK schemes to tackle unemployment in areas where it is most entrenched. The Committee was of the view that the results-driven focus of the Rhyl City Strategy provides a good model for bringing together businesses and the local community to tackle long term unemployment in particular black-spots.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Reviewing the "16-hour rule" in the UK which prevents those on Jobseeker's Allowance from working longer than 16 hours without losing their benefit
  • Simplifying and reducing the number of back-to-work schemes to make them more accessible to the unemployed
  • That the UK Government reviews the age range of the Future Jobs Fund to consider including 16 and 17 year olds
  • Changing public sector procurement policies to give weight to those contracts offering employment stimulus as opposed to lowest price.

Commenting on the report, the Chairman of the Committee, Lord Dubs, said "As a result of the global economic downturn unemployment in Britain and Ireland has increased significantly. In the United Kingdom unemployment stands at 7.8%, while in Ireland the level is around 12.5%. The recession has affected manual workers, professionals and graduates alike, and while there is some optimism that we are emerging from the worst of the downturn, history tells us that unemployment may linger for longer.

"Accordingly, we have presented a series of specific recommendations that are designed to improve back-to-work schemes and encourage more people into the workforce. This includes lowering the age of entry to these programmes, and ensuring that the focus is on the needs of local communities.

"Jobs are clearly a priority issue for families and communities throughout Ireland and Britain. We urge governments in the United Kingdom and Ireland to act on our recommendations to help unemployed people to return to work as soon as possible."





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