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The Minister for Employment and Learning Dr. Stephen Farry, MLA, today met with the Right to Work: Right to Welfare group, who are out of work and challenging government to live up to their local and international human rights commitments in relations to jobs and welfare support.

The group questioned Minister Farry on the concrete impact of the Departments Steps to Work scheme which their recent research shows gets less than 1 in 20 people back to work, and is often a humiliating experience for people forced to undertake it.

The Right to Work: Right to Welfare group, which has been surveying unemployed people at the north Belfast dole office since October 2013, launched their human rights indicators in March of this year and are set to monitor the Executive over the next 12 months as they campaign for their right to employment and welfare.

Among the questions the group had for the Minister today were:

  • Why are people on back to work schemes classified as employed yet have no employment rights?
  • How much of the money used by the Department for Employment and Learning on procurement is used to generate jobs for the long term unemployed?
  • Where is the evidence that Steps to Work is getting people back to work?

Group member Joan Lawless commented after the meeting:

“I want to thank the Minister for listening to us. We will measure success when we see changes on the ground and I’m glad the Minister committed to meeting us again to discuss our monitoring of his department and others in six months time.”

“We did not have enough time today to get all the answers to our questions but the Minister assures us we will have them in writing soon and he has agreed to share all relevant information with us.”

“It is clear from our research and the government’s own figure’s that Steps to Work is failing and costs millions of pounds every year. Members of our group explained the reality of Steps to Work to the Minister today.”

“We also asked what DEL is doing to target jobs at the long term unemployed and look forward to the response from his department. This is a question we would like to ask of every department in the assembly.”

“We have written already to Ministers, Arlene Foster of DETI, and Nelson McCausland of DSD, to discuss our findings in relation to their respective department’s responsibilities. We hope they take us up on the offer and consider the rights of the people affected by their policies as they make decisions into the future.”