The Vice-Chair of Derry Trades Union Council, Niall McCarroll, has welcomed Derry City and Strabane District Council’s support for a root and branch review of ‘Steps 2 Success’, the government’s latest controversial off-the-dole scheme.
Mr. McCarroll said the Department for Communities-backed scheme wasn’t working and that a detailed audit of its outcomes needed to be completed.
He made the comments after the local authority backed a motion, tabled by Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly, supporting the call from DTUC for a “comprehensive analysis to be carried out into the outcomes of the Steps 2 Success Programme in this council area”, at the council’s monthly meeting on Thursday.
No less than three motions dealing directly with the damaging impact of unemployment and welfare reform were passed by the local authority.
Moving the motion, Colr. O’Reilly said: “It’s worrying and a bit sad that we’re sitting here today and three out of five motions brought forward are about welfare reform and protecting the most vulnerable in our communities. I think it’s a sad indictment for this council area that we’re having to do this as councillors to try to put protections in for the most vulnerable.”
Mr. McCarroll said Steps 2 Success should be scrapped.
“A lot of issues that would come to our attention would be brought by workers from different sectors and increasingly now we’re finding that the Steps 2 Success offices and the programme are failing the people that are supposed to be availing of it,” he said.
“The outcomes that we’re hearing are not the same outcomes that the government are saying.”
The local labour association officer claimed £80m was being spent on the scheme but only one in ten people who go through it actually end up in employment.
“To a lot of people this programme is nothing more than getting people off benefits, getting them sanctioned, with no real jobs at the end. How many people are being sanctioned? How many jobs are coming out the other end of it? How many of these jobs are zero hour contract jobs?” he asked.
“If you miss an appointment, if you’re suffering from depression or you have an issue with addiction, your benefits can be stopped right away and you have to wait maybe up to 52 weeks to get it back again.
“That’s leading people to use food banks, the possibility of losing their homes. They’re struggling to pay their bills. If it turns out that this programme isn’t fit for purpose then we would expect that it will be scrapped.”