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Speech by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Pathways to Work Launch, in the Digital Skills Academy, The Digital Hub, February 23rd 2012

Today marks another step in the Government’s drive towards the creation of job opportunities for our people.

Our immediate priorities on taking office were stabilising the economy and public finance; re-organising the banks and repairing Ireland’s international reputation.

We have now moved to an intensive focus on getting Ireland working, through the creation of jobs and reforming the way in which we provide public services to our people.

I’d like to thank you all for coming here today to the excellent surroundings of the Digital Skills Academy. 

It is fitting that we are here on a day when Microsoft has committed to a $130 million investment to expand its data centre in Dublin which will provide more digital and construction jobs.

Earlier this week the electronic payments company Paypal announced 1,000 new jobs for Dundalk.

As we work to sort out the country’s problems and implement our Action Plan on Jobs we hope to attract further investment and more jobs.

This brings us to the reason why we are here today for the launch of the Government’s Pathways to Work strategy.

Today is not only about launching a new plan but it is about beginning a whole new approach to support the unemployed back into the work force.

Pathways to Work is about people and making sure the upcoming economic recovery does not by-pass those who lost their jobs during the recession.

I do not want a situation where we might have someone sitting at home listening to job announcements but is blocked off from accessing them because they haven’t had the right support from the State.

Today marks a new beginning for State services serving unemployed people and marks an end to the old FAS way of doing things. The splitting of responsibility for supporting job seekers is over.

We are now creating a one stop shop for job seekers through the establishment of the National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES).

In addition to processing welfare entitlements in a timely manner, NEES will actively provide needs assessments and constructively engage with the newly unemployed.

It will then offer job search assistance or appropriate education, training or work experience opportunities to increase their employability and keep them close to the labour market.

We will not recover from the jobs crisis unless we change our way of doing things.

We are completely overhauling the manner the State supports job seekers by introducing this best international practice.

This year will see a big improvement in supports for job-seekers. In addition to the establishment of a one stop shop for job seekers we are also:

      Prioritising training places for job seekers;

      Introducing a new regime of earlier interventions for those most at risk of long- term unemployment, and;

      Providing more incentives for employers to hire off the dole by extending the employer PRSI exemption scheme from 12 months to 18 months and by amending the eligibility criteria to allow time spent in state training or in internships count as the qualifying period for the scheme

We are also increasing resources and reforming many aspects of State training to give more people better opportunities to secure a job. Ministers’ Quinn and Burton will go into further detail.

These big changes are not easy but they are necessary. The merger of the employment services functions of FÁS with the Department of Social Protection was completed on target on 1 January 2012.

Now there will be a strong focus on delivering the targets and new structures outlined in Pathways to Work.

There is a clear line of responsibly to ensure it is actively managed.

Delivering on these goals will be a big test for Croke Park by ensuring staff flexibility and redeployment to new duties are achieved so that improved services can be delivered 

Making Work Pay

The Government wants work to pay.

That is why in the last Budget we delivered on our commitment not to increase taxes on income and work.

That is why we reversed the cut in the minimum wage 

Now we will ensure that the social protection system incentivises rather than blocks the return to work for unemployed people, including those with families, through ongoing reform of the system.

In Budget 2012 the Government exempted low-paid, part-time and seasonal workers with an annual income of less than €10,036 from the Universal Social Charge.

Reforms to the jobseekers’ schemes are being introduced to ensure that people in part-time employment are incentivised to take up full-time employment when possible.

This includes changing the payment week for jobseeker’s benefit to a five-day week rather than the previous six-day week.

In addition, from January 2013 employment on a Sunday will be taken into account when determining the level of entitlement to jobseeker’s payments.

These changes will reduce the amount of jobseeker benefit payable to casual workers and thereby encourage workers to take up offers of full-time employment rather than combining part-time employment with social welfare payments.

Rights & Responsibilities

The other significant change we are introducing is a new code of rights and responsibilities. In return for welfare support job seekers must actively seek employment or engage with employment or training services.

We will not stand over a system where some people are left abandoned on the dole queues with no engagement with employment services.

When new job opportunities arise we want unemployed people to be at the top of the queue.

For this to happen, people will have to engage with the National Employment and Entitlements Service to get the necessary advice and support. 

People at high risk of unemployment will be supported through group interviews, one-on-one sessions, and appointments with career specialists.

If necessary further training or work experience opportunities will be provided to improve a person’s skills and chances of landing that new job.

Those who refuse offers of support and don’t actively search for employment will put their welfare entitlements at risk.

We cannot allow a situation to stand where some people are left isolated on dole queues and drift further from the work force with each passing month.


I firmly believe that both the ‘Action Plan on Jobs’ launched last week and today’s ‘Pathways to Work’ can make a real and lasting impact for unemployed people.

Together they will give the best possible chance to those who lost their jobs during the recession.

The linked plans will drive real policy and organisational change across Government to better react and deal with our unemployment crisis.

There will be no easy shortcut back to full employment.

But these plans offer a road map. A driver of action. A way we can get Ireland working again.

Each extra job will be hard earned and well deserved.

But I have no doubt that the supreme effort of all the people, whether they are job seekers, public servants or employers their desire to see this economic crisis sorted their belief in better things to come will get Ireland working again.

Thank you.

The Tanaiste will say a few words.

Government Press Office,,Ph 01 6194098