Belfast Telegraph

Concern over long-term jobless rate

Long-term unemployment has rocketed in Belfast, it has been claimed.

Around 4,500 people have been out of work for a year or more and the city council has been urged to do more to help create extra posts when awarding contracts to supply goods and services.

Bertie Atkinson of the Right to Work, Right to Welfare lobby group said job initiatives such as Steps to Work were ineffective.

"Unemployed people view it as a cheap form of labour for companies, not an opportunity which provides outcomes," he added.

A motion tabled by Sinn Fein councillor Steven Corr will be considered at a Belfast City Council meeting on Monday evening.

It says: "This council recognises the increasing social and economic hardship experienced by people in our communities as a result of growing unemployment and cuts to welfare benefits."

The motion lists a range of steps the council could take to promote growth, including inserting clauses in its contracts guaranteeing jobs for the long-term unemployed.

The Right to Work, Right to Welfare group said long-term unemployment had "rocketed" across all communities. In 2005 the total was around 2,000 but by 2012 that had risen to more than 4,000.

It has brought forward a petition with more than 1,800 signatures from unemployed people calling for the council motion's adoption.

The organisation represents loyalist and republican ex-prisoners' groups, Irish language organisations, job centres from east and west Belfast, the Lower Shankill Community Association and the Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum.

Mr Corr said there needed to be closer ties with training colleges to ensure skilled people were available to fill posts.

He said: "It is about sustainable new niche jobs, giving people the right qualifications instead of going to the dole office and asking, 'have you been seeking work', doing it properly rather than half-heartedly."

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