Lack of training on Gateway scheme is ‘soul-destroying’, say participants

By Maurice Garvey

GATEWAY participants in the Ballymount depot picketed this week to vent their frustration about the lack of training they have received in a “soul-destroying” scheme.

Announced in Budget 2013, the Gateway scheme was designed to provide short-term work and training opportunities for long-term unemployed people.

The 22-month scheme for participants on Jobseekers payments is managed by local authorities and the Department of Social Protection – but has been mired in controversy around the country, with opposition politicians blasting the programme as “exploitative” and a “rip-off.”

picket at Ballymount depot. resized

Gateway workers based in Ballymount told The Echo the only work they have done over the last 10 months is cleaning laneways.

Work projects listed under the official Gateway scheme include village enhancement, landscaping, control of animals, libraries, new projects and tourism ambassadors.

“We go out doing the same thing everyday, cleaning the same laneways,” said one Gateway participant, who did not want to give his name due to fears his social welfare payment would be cut.

He continued: “It’s soul-destroying. At the start, we were looking forward to getting stuck in, but we haven’t been given any training. We’ve asked to speak to the Gateway supervisor in the council, but they don’t want to meet us, and we can’t even find out who the supervisor is.

“The moral of the group is really down. People are treating it like a prison sentence at this stage. There is conflict between us and council workers at the yard. What is the point of this scheme ? All we want is training so we can actually pick up a skill.”

Gateway participants work for 19.5 hours a week for 22 months and receive their weekly social welfare payment of €188 topped up with another €20.

Sinn Féin TD Séan Crowe has called for the scheme to be “scrapped or modified” and urged council management to negotiate with the Gateway participants.

Deputy Crowe said: “These programmes have no training element and I’m concerned that no medicals have been done to see if people are fit to be out doing this type of work.”

“The government go on the radio and call it Gateway and it’s propaganda that’s swallowed hook, line and sinker, but the bigger picture is that people are being exploited to do work. Why don’t they just brand it as community work.”

A spokesperson for SDCC said: “Participants benefit from health and safety and work-related training in a productive professional environment that will add to their ability to seek future employment.

All Gateway participants in SDCC have received manual handling, safepass, needlestick awareness, Weil’s disease awareness, safety management system, safe systems of work plans and personal safety at work training. First aid training has also been delivered to a number of participants.”

The council said participants may be assigned a variety of duties depending on skills they develop during placement, including environmental services, derelict site clean-ups, remediation and restoration works, landscaping and estate improvements.

The spokesperson continued: “There is no requirement for medicals under this scheme. Participants report on a daily basis to their line-manager. Gateway participant may apply to competitions advertised by the council. There are currently 206 Gateways participants employed by the council.”

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