Belfast Telegraph

Department cuts grant to jobless support service

The future of a board which helps the jobless in west Belfast was in doubt yesterday following an evaluation by the Department for Employment and Learning.

Members of the Employment Services Board, which provides economic advice to people on both sides of the community, said the Department for Employment and Learning was cutting its grant.

Two employees at the board — which emerged from the Greater Shankill and West Belfast task forces — have been put on protective notice.

Economist John Simpson, a member of the board, said: “The board was one of the most constructive things to come out of the task forces. Changing the funding arrangements, we feel, does not recognise the reality of the contribution it makes.”

The work of the board, which functions alongside an employers forum and job assist centres, includes initiatives to help people back into employment in the areas, to boost the social economy and help former political prisoners to find work.

“It has helped all sorts of people from across the community on both sides of the border and job assist centres were working very well in both areas on both sides of the peaceline,” Mr Simpson said.

A spokesman for the department said funding for the board’s umbrella programme, the Local Employment Intermediary Service (LEMIS) had been extended until March 31 next year.

But he added: “The independent evaluation queried the value for money of the stakeholder forums and also indicated that the stakeholder forums duplicated some of the work of the Department.

“Consideration is being given to the future of the stakeholder forums in view of the evaluation findings.

“We have been able to ensure that the service to clients will continue to be available through the extension of Providers' contracts until 31 March 2011.”

Belfast Telegraph