Job Start Payment Scheme

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 7th December 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin 3:15 pm, 7th December 2020

7. Dr Archibald asked the Minister for Communities to outline progress in delivering a scheme similar to Job Start in Scotland, which takes account of local circumstances and needs. (AQO 1278/17-22)

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for her question. I am pleased to advise that we will be providing increased funding to help to remove barriers to work for people who receive income-related benefits. For example, in Scotland, the Job Start scheme payment is a grant of £250, or £400 if the recipient is the main carer for a child or children. That is available only to those aged 16 to 24. Here, the adviser discretionary fund can provide up to £300 to remove a barrier to work. I am increasing that limit to £1,500 in a 12-month period and expanding the range of supports that it can be used for.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for her response. That is useful information. Can the Minister provide any assurances about participation in Job Start programmes?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I am not sure: is the Member asking about sanctions? This is not about sanctions. This is about a voluntary programme that, hopefully, young people aged 18 to 24 will avail themselves of. If they cannot — rather than do not want to — avail themselves of it, they will not be sanctioned, which was the problem, particularly for young people with educational challenges, those with mental health issues, and those who are leaving care or being looked after. They were in the bracket of young people who were more sanctioned than others. It is about the fact that some of them cannot make their appointment, rather than that they just did not bother turning up.