Dozens of protestors picketed the administrator of the latest government off-the-dole scheme in Derry city centre this week and called for the Department for Communities ‘Steps 2 Success’ programme to be scrapped.
Speaking outside the People Plus NI jobs centre in the old City shirt factory on Queen Street on Tuesday trade unionists said the scheme wasn’t working.
They complained job seekers and sickness benefit claimants were being forced to accept unsuitable placements and jobs under threat of sanction.
Niall McCarroll, from Unison, said: “They are bringing people into this building who are on sickness benefit. These same people come from socially deprived backgrounds.
“There is a lack of services in their areas and most of them come from working class backgrounds where opportunities and chances in life are reduced.”
Mr. McCarroll continued: “The latest statistic is that there are over 6,000 people unemployed in Derry.”
He added: “They are bringing people in there and are making them apply for jobs where there are no jobs, so the model is wrong, the ethos is wrong and we ask for this to be stopped.”
Albert Hewitt, from Unite, concurred: “It’s not working and government know it’s not working...it needs to be rectified and looked at to ensure there are jobs, jobs for the working class, well paid jobs, with [good] terms and conditions.”
Eamonn McCann from Derry Trades Council said: “I have been unable to find anybody that actually say they think it’s a good idea. the mass of the people are against it.
“You have to ask yourself: how is it allowed to happen? It’s not about socialism even or anything like that. Democracy demands that this scheme be abandoned and if I’m right and the vast majority of people are against it what we need is to mobilise as many of that vast majority here and everywhere else against this.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “The Department for Communities is committed to providing programmes and services which assist and support people to prepare for and move into employment, and to help employers fill their job vacancies and ultimately grow their business.
“Steps 2 Success is designed to deliver a flexible, personalised service, tailored to meet individual need. Providers work with individual participants to help them to address barriers to employment, and to find and sustain work.
“The Department can confirm that the Steps 2 Success providers do not sanction any individuals. The programme is a commitment by the Executive to helping people into work or to start the journey back to work.
“The Department continually monitors the Steps to Success programme and the most recent statistical bulletin on Steps 2 Success shows that, since October 2014, it has helped 9,560 people into employment. The programme continues to meet the expected performance level for job outcomes and has a positive impact on the lives of each of these individuals and their families.”