Many of you will remember an open letter on this blog from our Director, Ann Heelan with regard the recent Springboard Initiative and its exclusion of people in receipt of Disability Allowance. As a result of the lobbying done by AHEAD, change happened – as documented here.

However, joined up thinking is certainly not an approach which seems to be enjoyed by the current crop as similar issues have arisen with the new Jobbridge scheme.

On the 25th June 2011, our Director wrote to the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton on the issue. Extracts from the letter are posted below for your information. We would encourage everyone who disagrees with this exclusion to write to the Minister to outline the problems with Jobbridge.

The wonderful and always articulate Maman Poulet has also posted an interesting analysis entitled “Jobs Initiative – will it work and how it’s unattainable for some” and more recently a query around the general idealogy of the Jobbridge scheme: Jobbridge and free Labour

 

“The new Jobbridge scheme looks brilliant and should prove an excellent initiative to engage unemployed people with the workplace and benefit employers.

But, unfortunately this innovative scheme appears to be closed to unemployed people on disability allowance.  There seems to be an assumption underpinning the scheme that people on disability allowance are not fit to work 30 hours per week and could not be job seekers.  Yet this assumption is simply not true.  People with disability are on DA for historic reasons and many can work, want to work, are frustrated with the jobs market and lack of opportunity.  In fact the scheme itself entitles people on DA to engage with education, training and employment opportunities.

The commission report on the status of people with disabilities recognised ten years ago that people with disabilities are significantly under-represented in the workplace and that unemployment has a disproportionate effect on them compared to others in the population.  This situation has not changed since and in the recession education, employment and training are even more important routes for people with disabilities to achieve economic and social independence. The commission report identifies mainstream inclusion as a human right and the preferred option of people with disabilities.  “many people with disabilities feel they are pushed to the margins of society[1] 

Minister, as you know, there are over 6,800 students with verified disabilities in higher education, more again in Further Education and all have expectations of careers, but are affected by the recession and current lack of opportunities.  These people need the same breaks as anyone else and Jobbridge is an excellent initiative for all unemployed people to re-engage actively with the workplace.

AHEAD knows the benefit of internships and have operated the Willing Able Mentoring Internship Scheme (FAS Funded) for 6 years for graduates with disabilities.  Even in a booming economy people with disabilities go the end of the jobs queue and experience additional barriers to employment related to their disability.  The WAM scheme, similar to the Jobbridge recognises the value of work experience as an instrument to break down the barriers and encourage employers to see the talent and ability of people with disability.  It provides fully paid internships of 6-9 months duration for graduates with disabilities immediately changing their status from recipients of disability allowance to tax payers.  The benefits are considerable to the individual, in terms of skills acquisition, to employers who benefit by building capacity to be inclusive and to the government who have graduates switching from DA to becoming taxpayers.  This month alone we know of three graduates with disabilities whose internships have led to employment.

Unfortunately people on disability allowance are not eligible for Jobbridge.  This decision to exclude them from these opportunities is surprising as it would appear to be disconnected from government policy to include people with disabilities in mainstream training and employment opportunities.  Furthermore the Department responsible for employment has through its Disability Sectoral Plan, worked to raise awareness of disability in the workplace and has supported initiatives designed to build the capacity of employers, schemes such as the 02 awards, WAM and others. Most people with disabilities are on disability allowance, in spite of their work history, and so far have had access to mainstream initiatives such as the BTEA scheme and other employment opportunities.

A recent UN report of independent experts on the compliance of Ireland with international human rights states clearly that human rights are not dispensable in times of economic hardship.  Ireland is obliged to ensure human rights equally without discrimination of any kind and should avoid retrogressive measures.  Furthermore it stresses that “the state recall its obligations of non –discrimination and equality in activation policies”[2].

As a country we cannot use our financial difficulties as a reason to disregard our human rights obligations.

We are most concerned that new opportunities are closed to people on disability allowance.  Furthermore it is giving a negative message to employers that their equality obligations are dispensable and that it is OK to exclude people with disabilities.

Employers want the best and many people with disabilities have the qualifications, attitudes and abilities sought by employers, WAM has proved it.  We would ask you to review the eligibility criteria for entry to JobBridge as it will bring greater benefits to employers engaged by raising inclusion issues and it will benefit the whole community of jobseekers.”


[1] A strategy for equality Report of the Commission on the Status of people with disabilities

[2] Un Human Rights Council, Report of the independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty May 2011

 

 

Advertisements