Belfast Telegraph

New scheme to help 1,000 unemployed

Up to 1,000 unemployed people could be sent back to work in Northern Ireland if the Government made it a condition of public construction contracts, Alex Attwood has said.

The social development minister has agreed an unemployed person should be put back to work for every £500,000 spent by his office on public construction. The work would be a six-month placement and is expected to start in January.

Mr Attwood called on other government ministers to do likewise to help boost the sagging jobs market.

"If there are people on benefits who are capable of going into work then we need to have a personal, dedicated, sustained, consistent approach and help people get back into work," he said.

"Proposals only measure up if there is work to go into. In a situation where there will be less public sector jobs, where we will be in recession for at least a year and the private sector won't pick up, the reduced employment, work to welfare ends up being an aspiration rather than a reality because in many cases there won't be work to go into."

He said he met his procurement board this week about construction contracts. The Department for Social Development (DSD) is committed to building thousands of social houses each year.

He said a condition of the contract would be that one unemployed person was taken on for every £500,000 spent. If that was done across Government for capital spend it would be 1,000 people in work, the minister added.

Some staff in Northern Ireland, like those at the Social Security Agency, who administer the complex benefits system which is due to be overhauled following the announcement from the Department for Work and Pensions could lose their job, although it is too early to say how many positions are under threat.

It is expected the DSD will await the final passage of the Westminster bill before introducing its own arrangements.

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