Social Economy Rollout Grinds to a Halt

26 Feb 2003

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed has learned of a significant fiscal error in the preparation of the Social Economy budget for 2003. The planned FÁS budget for €40m to fund up to 2,000 full time posts in the programme has been slashed by €9m to give an actual budget of €31m. Currently, there are approximately 1,700 full time equivalents on the programme. This reduction in the budget means that there are inadequate funds to cover the existing numbers and subsequently a cap on recruiting new people into the programme.

“This is just another strike at the most marginalised in Irish society to enable the Government to balance the books,” said Eric Conroy, General Secretary of the INOU. “This is totally unacceptable for a fledging programme borne out of the PPF, which was positioned to take up the slack of services not being provided due to the ongoing cuts in the Community Employment programme.”

It is understood that the cuts in the budget for the Social Economy programme are as a result of changes in the number of places in the Community Employment programme. It was estimated that the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment wished to reduce the number of places by 60% to 15,000 by the end of 2003 and budgeted accordingly. However, after lobbying by FÁS and others this was raised to 20,000. Now faced with a budget deficit, the Government has made yet another cut in a programme that provides assistance to the unemployed and other marginalised people to re-enter the labour market.

“It is important that the Government returns to the commitments made in the PPF and reinvests in the Social Economy programme as it had intended to do”, added Mr Conroy. “By honouring commitments, it instils credibility in social partnership especially at this time as the INOU ponder on whether to accept or reject Sustaining Progress”.