The closure of Kilkenny Job Club this month signifies a loss to the community of Kilkenny. As I understand it, a decision not to renew the contract was taken by the sponsoring organisation, Fr Mc Grath FRC, following a strategic review of their services. The county is now without a valuable service for those in the unenviable situation of seeking employment.
It is also my understanding that the Department of Employment Affairs (DEASP) has not actively sought another sponsor. Minister Doherty and more locally Deputy John Paul Phelan, have both turned a blind eye to this loss of service for a vulnerable sector of society but also to the loss of 2 full-time positions and the loss of income for local businesses.
Last weekend the Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny was heaving as up to 1,000 people attended Careers Kilkenny. There was a buzz of positivity about working and living in Kilkenny which I wholeheartedly agree with. I am genuinely excited at the opportunities that the success of Cartoon Saloon, Carne Group, Beotanics and others have to offer the county. The jobs on offer, however, are mostly at the highly skilled end ranging from HR Talent Management to Engineering.
Kilkenny Job Club (KJC), as with all community based employment support schemes, welcomed people regardless of work experience, education or skill levels. In general, community based staff have experience and empathy, a well formed network with local employers and complementary service providers and a ‘person not profit’ approach. Community based employment services offer once off interventions on local employment opportunities to longer term job skills and training.
I understand that of the approximately 500 people who availed of KJC services in 2019, at least 80 secured paid employment and an additional 15 moved into full-time education, presumably increasing their employment prospects in the future. National figures put the cost of Job Club services at €2,500 per full-time placement and less if part-time employment is factored in. Kilkenny Job Club costs were lower than the national average (Indecon Report 2018).
The DEASP’s willingness to allow Kilkenny Job Club to close makes sense only in light of this Government’s commitment to the JobPath scheme. JobPath is an employment activation service provided to people who have been on the live register for more than 12 months. Turas Nua and Seetec, two private companies employed by the State, have received over €75.7 million and €73.3 million respectively since 2015. The cost of JobPath per full-time placement is €3,700, the majority of clients only staying in a job for a period of up to 13 weeks.
It is really important to note that, in February, the Dáil voted on a Sinn Fein motion to end referrals of jobseekers to the scheme by 81 votes to 42. In direct defiance, this Government and specifically Minister Doherty extended the JobPath scheme for 2020 and appears to be writing the private provision of services into future procurement policies. This Government is failing community based employment supports.
To conclude, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the voluntary board at Fr McGrath FRC for their sponsorship of the Job Club service since 2012, acknowledging it was outside of their core mission. Unfortunately the community and voluntary sector has been consistently undervalued and unsupported by this Government. A reminder that Carlow Job Club remains open for Carlow based jobseekers and that the SICAP team, operating out of Kilkenny Leader offers help with CVs.