Just 6% of participants in work scheme for disabled people got jobs

Tuesday 05 August 2014 12.10
The Department of Social Protection is to carry out a review
The Department of Social Protection is to carry out a review

An unpublished review into a €9m Government scheme which aims to help at least 50% of disabled participants find work has found just 6% were exiting the scheme with jobs.

The Department of Social Protection told RTÉ's This Week that it is to carry out a review into alleged shortcomings in the 'Supported Employment' scheme.

Concerns over the cost-benefit, and other issues, were identified in a report carried out by the department, a copy of which was obtained by This Week under a Freedom of Information inquiry

Even when part-time work was included, the success rate for participants failed to pass 20%, the report found.

In addition to concerns over the low number of jobs generated via the scheme, the department said there were "fundamental" concerns over the inadequate data being retained on how the programme was operated.

Auditors found imprudent financial management at one service provider; and a lack of garda vetting at another service provider who was dealing with around 50 participants.

On a practical level, of the two service providers it audited, the review team also found that one service provider was operating from a building which was inaccessible to people with certain disabilities.

The report found that given the low number of disabled participants exiting the scheme in employment, the expenditure of €8.9m a year on this programme represented a "high cost".

All of the money spent under the programme goes to the 23 private limited companies that operate the service on contract from the department.

The department said that €7.3m of this was spent on job coaches, who are hired by third-party service providers to help disabled people find work.

The internal report examined the handling of disabled clients at two service providers, one in the west of Ireland and one in the Munster area, over the 2012 and 2013 period.

It found there were more job coaches working for these two service providers than there were successful disabled participants who found full-time work.

A spokesman for Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, said that the review would look at whether the 50% jobs target was realistic in the current economic climate, but it described the low number of jobs which had been generated under the programme as a "disappointment".

In the statement to RTÉ, the department said that external consultants would be hired and in place by early 2015 to conduct a review into the programme.

Speaking on This Week, disability rights campaigner Suzy Byrne said that by "franchising" out services for the disabled to third-party limited companies, the State had effectively diminished its own expertise in the sector.