Cork North West T.D. Michael Creed has rejected a Sinn Fein Private members motion calling on the Government to abandon the Gateway scheme. Speaking during the debate Deputy Creed said:

“It is (the Dáil motion) gratuitously insulting to people who are unemployed and to anyone who participates in Gateway, a Tús scheme, a CE scheme or JobBridge. It is based on a flawed political miscalculation in that Sinn Féin believes a cohort of those unfortunate people, who find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own, do not want to work. I can tell Sinn Féin that in my political experience in my constituency office, as late as my clinics last Monday night, I had people who want to stay longer on schemes and who want to get onto schemes. I have had conversations with supervisors who have constructive suggestions to make about how to improve schemes. However, this motion is gratuitously insulting to communities who organise schemes, to local authorities who will provide a range of opportunities to participants on schemes, but it is insulting most of all to the more than 180,000 people who are long-term unemployed, for whom Sinn Féin Members allege to care but to whom, by virtue of their motion, they are giving a slap in the face”.

“The motion refers to the portion of the unemployed accounted for by those who are long-term unemployed having increased from 55% to 61%. What is Sinn Féin\’s solution to this issue? Deputy Clare Daly said that people need a job if they are to get back to work. Of course they need a job. However, it is clearly established that the prospects of getting a full-time job are significantly diminished the longer a person is unemployed. That is what labour activation programmes seek to address. It is about giving people a pathway back to work by offering opportunities to upskill and retrain. If Members opposite were offering a constructive criticism of the schemes in terms of their training input, for example, there might be something to debate. However, this pejorative language of \”frog-marching\”, \”forced labour\” and \”hard labour\” is gratuitously insulting to those people who want to participate in the schemes and see them not as a hard labour, but as an avenue back to work”.

“Sinn Féin needs to get real. I urge Members opposite to get in touch with the constituencies where unemployment is a serious issue and with the communities that are offering these people some hope of getting back into the workforce. Our economic recovery is fragile. Any local social welfare officer will say that employers are nervous but are gradually putting their toes back in the water. These employers are saying they do not have sufficient confidence to take on a full-time employee, but they can offer two or three days work per week. Participants who work for 19.5 hours per week under the Gateway, Tús or community employment schemes will receive an incentive to do so and can take up opportunities elsewhere on the back of the experience they gain”.

“In an ideal world, we would have work for everybody and there would be no need to debate these issues. Unfortunately, ours is a far from ideal world and we cannot adopt the head in the sand, all or nothing approach of Deputy Clare Daly or Sinn Féin. We are giving participants an additional €20 per week. I wish we were in a position to give an extra €50 or €100, but we simply cannot afford it. Who would pay the taxes to support that increased allocation? Employers are beginning to get up off their knees and offer people opportunities, but Deputies opposite want to nail those people to a lifetime on social welfare. It is a betrayal like none I have ever seen in respect of people who are unemployed, and it is coming from a party that purports to articulate the needs of marginalised people. In previous Opposition motions I have generally found elements that I would like, in my heart of hearts, to support. In this instance, however, there is not a single shred of content that offers anything to the people it is claiming to represent but further long-term unemployment. The bottom line is that we need labour activation measures to improve the employability of people seeking work”.

“I will conclude by offering a constructive criticism, which I hope the Minister, Deputy Phil Hogan, will convey to his colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Richard Bruton. There is a proliferation of schemes, including Tús, community employment schemes and Gateway, which, because they were introduced at short notice, feature a degree of overlap and inadequate co-ordination. I have spoken to supervisors who are crisscrossing County Cork, with one supervising a single Tús worker on a GAA pitch, for example, and another coming onto the same pitch separately to supervise three Tús workers or community employment scheme workers. We need to extract from the current pool of supervisors people who will assume an oversight role in terms of the implementation and co-ordination of scarce resources. We are putting €19 million into Gateway. I wish we could allocate €90 million, but that is not possible. This is a labour activation measure with significant merit. As I said at the outset, the content of this motion from Sinn Féin is gratuitously insulting to long-term unemployed people and to participants in these schemes the length and breadth of the country”.

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