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Calls for 'exploitative' JobBridge to be scrapped after more revelations

The Department of Social Protection says the scheme is being reviewed.

SuperValu is one of the employers found to be a heavy user of JobBridge.
SuperValu is one of the employers found to be a heavy user of JobBridge.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

THE DEPARTMENT OF Social Protection has defended the JobBridge scheme from calls for it to be scrapped following a series of critical newspaper articles.

An article in today’s Sunday Business Post described the scheme as being “unmanageable” and “out of control” as well as describing how some companies became “hooked” on the scheme.

But the department has rejected the assertions made in the piece, describing them as being “unbalanced”.

The investigation also listed every organisation that used the scheme and how many times they used it. It showed that the Health Service Executive availed of interns most frequently under the scheme, followed by the GAA and Teagasc.

Supermarket franchise SuperValu and tech manufacturer Hewlett Packard were among the private employers to have availed of the scheme most frequently since it began in 2011.

The scheme has been the subject of much debate in the five years since, with some arguing that it promotes exploitation of unemployed people.

Calls for the scheme to be scrapped have been repeated following today’s article with both Fianna Fáil and the Impact trade union saying it needs to be replaced.

But the department has defended the scheme, arguing that research suggests that two-thirds of those who have used the scheme would recommend it.

“The department’s own direct experience is that JobBridge has been a positive experience for the majority of interns,” a spokesperson said in a statement this afternoon.

In this context, the piece in the Sunday Business Post is suggesting that a small number of examples of unnamed interns are representative of the general experience without, as a minimum, quoting data from the most comprehensive review (the Indecon report) which found high levels of satisfaction and high progression to employment rates.

“In this regard the article is, in the department’s view, unbalanced and misrepresentative.”

The department also claims that, of the 46,500 unemployed jobseekers who took part in the scheme, about 60% secured paid employment with five months of it finishing.

Addressing the future of the scheme, the department notes that the number of people on JobBridge schemes has fallen from a peak of 7,000 to a current level of 4,005.

It says a review of the scheme is currently underway that will inform any possible changes to JobBridge.

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary, however, says that the scheme needs to go.

“JobBridge has been an abusive, unfair scheme for many young people who are attempting to get on the career ladder, and it has been a disaster for social mobility,” he says.

I raised concerns about the possible exploitation of young people by certain employers, when this scheme was first introduced, and this is exactly what has happened.

Read: Fox hunting on JobBridge? Joan Burton says her hands are tied >

FactCheck: What effect does JobBridge and other schemes have on our unemployment rate? >

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Rónán Duffy

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