The National Internship Scheme announced by the Minister for Social Protection today fails to harness the full potential of the voluntary sector, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Barry Cowen.


Deputy Cowen said: “There are two rules in Minister Burton’s scheme that will exclude many of the 23,000 voluntary organisations at the heart of communities around the country.


“The organisations involved in the scheme must already have staff who are on their own payroll in full. Therefore those with only voluntary staff or staff recruited through community employment schemes are not be eligible. This rules out thousands of community groups like GAA clubs or local charities, who are likely to benefit most from a scheme like this.


“On top of this, participating organisations must also be legal entities, for example a Limited Company, and not sole traders. Again this is a barrier for the community and voluntary sector as well as many small businesses who also don’t qualify under these rules.


“Minister Burton has failed to maximise on the full potential of the internship programme. Her initiative provides participants with €50 a week, instead of the €100 provided under the scheme announced by the previous Government in December’s budget. She has also reduced the maximum duration of the scheme from 12 months to 9 months.


“I welcome any measure aimed at tackling unemployment and providing people will the valuable skills they need to get into the jobs market. There is no doubt that internship programmes like this can be win-win opportunities for both employers and job-seekers, and have wider benefits for the community. However I am concerned that Minister Burton has not gone far enough with this initiative and has missed a valuable opportunity.” concluded Deputy Cowen.