SIPTU have written to the Minister for responsibility for the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) to seek a reconsideration of the decision to declare funding applications from Derry community groups as late. The groups had ensured their applications were received in good time. However, due to a combination of an administrative error and IT problems, the vacancies were not registered by the Departments lead partner the North West Regional College before the closing date.
Sean McMonagle a SIPTU activist from the umbrella group Triax Neighbourhood Partnership stated: “The right and proper thing is for the minister to accept a mistake was made but it was not made by any of the community groups who had their application in on time.”
Step Ahead was introduced by the Department for Employment and Learning in direct response to the economic downturn, giving the voluntary and community sector and social economy businesses an opportunity to assist the long-term unemployed back into work.
The programme was utilised in creating exciting, genuine employment opportunities for those who were long-term unemployed and wished to take the first steps back into employment. Around 175 people a month had been signing up for the programme, which was set up two years ago.
Overall during the life time of the scheme around 4,000 people were lifted out of social security dependency into temporary posts with voluntary or community sector groups, which improved the job prospects of participants by giving them a recent employment history. In addition the vital work of the community and voluntary was enhanced.
However as a cost saving measure the scheme was axed by DEL and a closing date for applications of the 21st October was imposed. This decision was as a direct result of the reduction in the Block Grant received from Westminster.
SIPTU have written directly to the Minister of DEL Steven Farry seeking an urgent review of the decision to deem the applications as late. Martin O’Rourke Lead Organiser for SIPTU stated “We trust the Minister will accept the groups acted in a professional manner ensuring the completed applications were received in good time by their lead partner, and the circumstances that led to the late receipt were entirely outside of their control”.
The geographical are covered by these groups is one of the most deprived areas in the local economy and the services which these additional 30 workers could bring to the city are urgently required.