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Stormont job scheme has disappointing results

A £50 million Stormont executive scheme aimed at helping unemployed people find a job has had disappointing results, to put it mildly.

Two years after the Steps 2 Success programme was set up, four out of five jobseekers have not found employment.

Of those who did find work with this mandatory scheme, fewer than one in four were still in a job six months on.

These are very worrying figures and must raise questions about the effectiveness and cost of this scheme.

More than 31,500 people have been registered with the programme - led by three private contractors across Northern Ireland - which we are told aims to provide a personalised service, tailored to meet the needs of individuals.

The initiative was launched in October 2014 to replace Steps to Work and attendance is compulsory for those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for more than 12 months, or nine months in the case of those aged under 24.

Welfare claimants failing to participate in the scheme can see their benefits cut, something that has happened to more than 5,000 people.

While the programme seemed to start off in a positive way, the number finding and remaining in work has fallen steadily.

Surprisingly, it seems that no formal reviews of the Steps 2 Success programme have been carried out, something that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

It is essential that Stormont examines the reasons why this scheme is not delivering in terms of helping the long term unemployed into work.

The cost of this scheme also needs to be assessed to determine if the taxpayer is getting value for money.

Ultimately, what is important is making sure that people seeking work are given the right support, guidance and advice to maximise their chances of securing a job and keeping it.

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