One-to-one supports are effective in helping the long-term unemployed with low levels of education to transition into employment

New ESRI research shows improved employment outcomes among the long-term unemployed who receive employment supports under the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP).

SICAP provides funding to tackle poverty, social exclusion and long-term unemployment through local engagement and partnerships between disadvantaged individuals, community organisations and public sector agencies. The programme is administered by Pobal and funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) and the European Social Fund (ESF). Joe O’ Brien (TD, Minister of State for Community Development and Charities) will deliver the opening address as part of the webinar launch of this publication by the ESRI and Pobal on Wednesday 2 September 2020. 

The study focuses on the employment assistance given to individuals deemed to be furthest from the labour market who are both long-term unemployed (unemployed for two years or more) and have low levels of educational attainment (Leaving Certificate or less). The research adopts a range of methods, including analyses of administrative data, a survey of providers (Local Development Companies (LDCs) implementing SICAP supports), and in-depth case studies to evaluate the effectiveness of assistance measures.

Key findings

  • Jobseekers who engaged with SICAP employment supports in 2018 were approximately 18 percentage points more likely to have progressed into employment or self-employment after 3 to 6 months than similar individuals who had not received such supports. These supports were particularly effective in boosting involvement in self-employment.  
  • One-to-one employment supports were found to be key drivers of programme success. These tailored supports covered a range of activities, for example, encouragement, mentoring, job search assistance, CV preparation, and facilitating help in the areas of literacy and mental health, aiding participants to overcome a wide range of practical barriers to employment and self-employment.
  • SICAP employment supports were found to have distinctive features enhancing their work with more marginalised groups, including flexibility, a holistic approach, staff skills and links with other providers/services. The nature of overall provision is heavily client-led and strongly informed by the kinds of employment available locally.
  • SICAP beneficiaries interviewed were very positive about the assistance they received, valuing both the one-to-one support and the courses provided. All described a trajectory from low self-confidence to a renewed ability to engage with courses and/or apply for jobs, a pattern they attributed to the ongoing coaching provided by LDC staff.

Dr Adele Whelan, ESRI, commented, “A significant share of those who remain unemployed (or outside the labour market) for long durations are individuals who face multiple barriers and cannot be expected to progress to employment without intensive personalised supports. International evidence suggests that assistance measures targeting marginalised groups have typically had limited success in terms of achieving labour market re-integration. The success of the SICAP interventions are remarkable and should serve as a benchmark for all agencies dealing with disadvantaged job seekers going forward.”

Joe, O'Brien, TD., Minister of State for Community Development & Charities said: “I welcome the publication of this very valuable piece of research which clearly illustrates that SICAP pre-employment supports are helping people furthest removed from the labour market, and who often face multiple barriers, to gain employment or enter self-employment.  Given the sharp rise in total unemployment in the wake of COVID-19 SICAP and its holistic, person-centred response to individual needs will be more important than ever”.

 CEO of Pobal, Anna Shakespeare said: "The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) aims to address high and persistent levels of deprivation through targeted and innovative, locally-led approaches. My colleagues in Pobal and I were delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the development of this publication. The findings clearly illustrate the key successes of SICAP and the benefits that one-to-one, person-centred interventions provided by Local Development Companies are achieving, through tailored supports and recognising the individual participants personal employment goals”.

A webinar was held on Wednesday, 2 September 2020, where ESRI researcher, Adele Whelan, presented the findings of the report. Please see the presentation slides below.

To view a video of the webinar, please see the Youtube playlist below.