Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey believes scores of jobs across the North West could be put at risk as a result of the procurement exercise used for a government-funded programme designed to get people back to work.
Mr Ramsey’s concerns follow a briefing from DEL officials on the new employment programme, ‘Steps 2 Success’, which replaces the ‘Steps to Work’ programme.
The SDLP Assemblyman says it appears that local organisations with a proven track record in getting people back into work are effectively now not going to be used as part of the new programme.
It’s understood that in the region of 150 jobs in Derry could be at risk.
He said: “I have consistently told the minister and his officials that the procurement exercise for the new employment programme would need to be built on the experience and successful record of many sub-contractors in Derry and beyond.
“However, it seems the Department has largely ignored that warning and has allowed contractors – none of which are based in the region - to appoint a supply chain which, to my knowledge, includes very few and possibly none of the current suppliers who were formerly engaged with the Steps to Work programme and which the officials accept have had a successful record and are models of good practice.
“I made the point to the officials briefing the Employment and Learning Committee that employers who currently deliver Steps to Work could be at risk of losing a large part of their workforce who were dedicated to the programme due to the procurement exercise.
“I do not accept the nonsensical position of the Department that those organisations with solid track records in getting people into work and supporting those people can just simply be ignored.
“We are resolute that the Department have got this wrong and it is hardly a good start for an employment programme to start by potentially making hundreds of people unemployed.”