Northern Ireland

Weekly £10 for Northern Ireland jobless to be axed

The Department for Employment and Learning is to stop paying a £10 weekly incentive to unemployed adults on Essential Skills courses.

The payment is made to people who need extra reading, writing, computer and maths skills to help them find a job.

At the moment, 573 adults receive the payments on top of their benefits while they complete a 26-week course.

However, the department said research showed the money was not an incentive and it would not be paid after July.

The learners will still receive a £100 bonus when they obtain their qualification.

The training organisations said the move was "surprising and disappointing".

They fear new trainees will be deterred when the weekly £10 payment is removed.

'Motivated'

Fionnuala McLernon, the Steps to Work manager for Springvale Learning in west Belfast, said £10 a week may not sound much, but over 26 weeks, it could make a big difference, especially to the long-term unemployed.

"We feel the extra money has motivated people to do the course, although once they come along they realise how worthwhile the training is," she said.

Josie Bennett said she did not do well at school but now wants better skills to obtain a job and to enable her to help her children with their schoolwork.

"It is bad that the £10 is going. It's going to stop people coming here, they shouldn't take it away, it's like a boost for people," she said.

Lyndsey Flynn, who is also doing the course in Springvale Learning, said the money was useful, although it was not a factor in her choice.

"It wouldn't put me off, I just wanted to do the course to help me get out of the house and better myself. I have no skills and never worked."

The Department for Employment and Learning said all Steps to Work trainees in Northern Ireland would still receive an extra £15.38 a week which trainees in Great Britain are not entitled to.

The extra £10 for essential skills trainees has been offered since 2008 and almost 3,000 adults have benefited from it.