A proposal by Cork Southwest Fine Gael TD Jim Daly to allow unemployed persons to work on Council schemes is to begin in a number of Councils including Cork County Council next month before being rolled out across the Country. The scheme titled “Gateway” will initially offer 150 unemployed persons in County Cork a work placement with Cork County Council for up to 22 months while retaining their current benefits and a modest top up payment to cover extra costs such as travel to work. Those joining the scheme will work on a wide range of projects with particular emphasis on outdoor maintenance projects across the County.
Speaking this week, Fine Gael’s Jim Daly outlined how those who refuse a placement on the Gateway scheme could see penalties applied to their weekly payments. “These placements will be offered on a random basis to job seekers. Obviously there will be allowances for age, illness, incapacity etc but otherwise those offered a place with the Local Council will have to participate or see their weekly benefits being cut.” stated the West Cork TD who initially proposed the scheme back in 2010 and has made it a political priority for him since his election as a Government TD just over two and a half years ago.
The announcement will be welcomed at a time of increasing calls for additional resources for local authorities struggling to maintain their existing level of services. “This is an example of common sense at work. I am delighted to see the scheme finally coming to fruition. Gateway is a win win for everyone; the unemployed get a chance to work and contribute to their communities while availing of training and up skilling and the Councils get a major employment boost to help with the maintenance of Roads, Parks, and Litter etc.” according to Jim Daly who confirmed that €2.85 million euro from the Dormant Accounts fund will be allocated to participating Local Authorities to cover costs associated with Health & Safety and the provision of resources and training to participants on the Gateway scheme.
Gateway is to be rolled out initially across 22 different Local Authorities with a projected 1,200 persons joining the scheme by the end of this year rising to 3,000 participants next year. The Gateway initiative will cost the Exchequer 22 million euros over 3 years. Participants will be selected on a random basis and then be offered a placement with their local Council. Persons taking a place on the Gateway scheme will be entitled to maintain their current benefits and a top up of €20 per week while working on the scheme. Participants will have to work for 17.5 hours per week up to a maximum period of one year and ten months.
The West Cork based TD believes there are many people who long to work and will be more than happy to participate in this scheme especially younger people.
“I do not think it is demeaning to ask anybody who can – to work for their payments. I believe it is far more demeaning to be handing out cheques every week without any expectations of anything in return. The minimum weekly payment under Gatewayis €208 which is more than double the current weekly payment to those under 23 years of age. There are currently almost 23,000 participants working on Community Employment Schemes across the Country, I would like to see similar numbers working on Gateway within the next couple of years.” concluded the Fine Gael TD who is also a member of the Oireachtas Social Protection Committee.