Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 17 January 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection
JobPath Programme: Discussion
I welcome Mr. Jeff Rudd and Mr. Damien Fagan from United People, Ms Catherine Greene from the Adult Education Guidance Association of Ireland and Dr. Ray Griffin and Dr. Tom Boland from Waterford Institute of Technology, WIT. In a few moments, I will invite our guests to make their presentations. When they have concluded, I will afford members an opportunity to ask questions. Those making the presentations have been informed of the time limits. Members asking questions have five minutes on the first round and, if time allows, we can take additional questions. I ask members and our guests to adhere to the time limits.
Before asking them to make their presentations, I need to draw our guests attention to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. If members or witnesses have mobile phones, they should turn them off or place them in flight mode because they interfere with the broadcasting and recording of proceedings.
I will start with Mr. Rudd or Mr. Fagan, or they can share the time between them, however they wish to do it. I remind our guests that their opening statements have been circulated to members.
Mr. Jeff Rudd:
I am from Drogheda, County Louth. I am accompanied by Damien Fagan. We would like to thank the committee for the invitation to make a presentation and for the public call for us to speak. We have conducted an investigation into JobPath over the past several years. The vast majority of citizens who have sought that help have come from all levels of job skills and have worked for years if not decades. Many examples of this will be found in the victim statement reports supplied. As outlined in our two separate submissions, due to the EU and International Monetary Fund, IMF, agreement any response to unemployment and long-term unemployment on the part of the State is restricted due to contractual terms which will not be lifted until the full recovery of the funds and interest provided via Ireland's bailout programme. The figure in that regard currently amounts to €42,000 from each man, woman and child in the country.
The Government and Departments claim that the purpose of JobPath is an approach to unemployment activation which caters mainly for the people who are long-term unemployed - that is, for 12 months - to assist them in securing and sustaining full-time employment or self-employment. There are, however, other agendas which the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will not explain. Those are to honour the EU and IMF agreement to reduce long-term unemployed support costs for the Department and to reduce the cost of staff needed to support those who are long-term unemployed and in receipt of payment from the Department. One should question which takes highest priority.
The full set up of the JobPath programme is outlined in our written submissions. I refer to the example of Tuesday, 11 February 2014, when Turas Nua, a joint venture between FRS Recruitment and Working Links, was set up. On Tuesday, 28 October 2014, Seetec Employment and Skills Ireland Designated Activity Company was established.
As this was happening, both Seetec Business Technology Company Limited and one part of Turas Nua called Working Links were under investigation by the Public Accounts Committee of the British House of Commons over claims the companies were committing fraud and the heavy use of sanctions, as revealed by three whisteblowers.
Under Irish Water legislation, people's personal data became legally classified as an asset. In 2017, the judge in the JobPath High Court case determined that the JobPath companies were not by legislation operating a public service. These two points are very important. A business that does not operate an official public function is not equally legally covered under the amended Social Welfare Acts of 2005 and 2006 or accountable to the Ombudsman. Therefore, the companies have no legal right to demand people's private details. When members of the public try to regain their legal right over their personal data, their legal asset, they are accused of not engaging. They are trying to hold on to something they own - their personal data - however, others are demanding these data, often with menaces.
People are told they have been randomly selected for JobPath. This is possibly wrong. The 2013 JobPath tender exposes that citizens are silently targeted through a probability of exit, PEX, State assessment process. The State has put this on record, as members will see in the 150-page report on JobPath from United People. It is at this stage of the JobPath programme that the person's data are transferred to companies without the consent of the person to whom the data refer. Under the GDPR, the State has further become a data processor under JobPath, not just a data storage entity. The importance of this is also not explained to newly enrolled citizens. The adviser, who is a private company employee, begins asking questions about the person. The answers are to be saved to a server. Again, this is legally important. This data help make up a personal progress plan, PPP. Clients are not informed that they are now giving away a legal asset they own. This is a form of legal possession of consent given away by a citizen who has deliberately been kept in the dark.
The personal progress plan is defined on page 137 of the 2013 JobPath tender document. It states that the plan is developed by the personal adviser with the client and the aim is to provide a clear route for the client to re-enter employment. Information that is required to develop a PPP can be found on page 23 in the section on JobPath services. The progression plan given by the private companies is a general power of attorney contract. Clients are not informed of this legal aspect. A general power of attorney contract is defined by the Department's publication on self-guiding one's money - general power of attorney - which has been provided. The contractual terms for this general power of attorney are the following: failure to comply with the company's job search conditions and targets may lead to sanctions; full access to all appointment records from past and future employers of that person; and failure to provide personal information regarding that person and close family members, including financial circumstances, may lead to prosecution. These contractual terms are not defined and are not even a requirement of the creation of the PPP in the 2013 JobPath tender document.
The greatest frustration with the privatisation of public services for companies seeking profit is that when such privatisation occurs, the needs of the people are overlooked in favour of the wishes of the companies operating such services. A number of victims' statements today will bear this out. The two private companies - Seetec and Turas Nua - are contracted to deliver JobPath based on their skills, abilities, experience and contacts. Since the beginning, both Seetec and Turas Nua have further subcontracted the JobPath programme out to additional companies. Seetec subcontracted to People First and Turas Nua subcontracted to Working Links. All of these companies are operating today.
Private companies operate a business practice which regards the use of sanctions on the public using public services to be the most effective method of saving. This practice was adopted from a previous UK model, the Irish Water model and the incoming waste management legislation. The document outlines the JobPath protocols placed not only on members of the public but also on the staff who are to enforce these protocols. In an additional request for tenders, instructions are provided on how to get the application of sanctions applied to a person. Translated, this means the word of the companies is taken over the word of citizens who are referred for sanctions. The Oireachtas Library and Research Service report from 2015 highlights this problem.
The Department has stated that in designing the JobPath programme, safeguards were put in place to prevent malpractice. What safeguards exist? There are no safeguards to prevent the companies from enforcing unobtainable targets or meetings on the person to justify referral for sanctions. The worst aspect of the absence of safeguards is that when the referral for sanction is made, the Department does not carry out any investigation into the grounds for that referral. When a meeting is called, it is conducted in the manner of a disciplinary procedure instead of a grievance. In the document and visual presentation, we expand on this issue. The appeals office does not provide any safeguards against further sanctions. Another safeguard that was meant to be in place has failed as the committee will discover in the submission from Damien Fagan.
One of the fundamental flaws is a creative loophole that allows the Department to override the natural flow of justice, as defined in the Constitution. This is outlined in detail in the documents provided by Mr. Fagan and me. This loophole in the Social Welfare Act allows the Department and companies to operate a system based on the principle of guilty until proven innocent. The operation of such a system is unlawful and unconstitutional and breaks international law and human rights treaties signed by Ireland. It is the belief of Irish citizens that a person is entitled to a fair hearing. The Social Welfare Act, in official interpretation and subsequent action, contradicts this.
By signing a PPP, the private companies profit by €557 per signature. A total of €60 million has been paid for signatures alone, with no service provided to clients. According to Chapter 12 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's 2017 report, between July 2015 and the end of December 2017, the JobPath programme cost €83.8 million. This breaks down to €15 million for PPP signatures and €32 million in job sustaining fees. The figure of €50 million for registration fees is made up of just one type of payment, which is received through the signing of a PPP with no services provided. This payment is only meant to account for between 10% and 15% of the overall JobPath cost. The €32 million in JobPath sustaining fees is made up of four payments for supports given to people in employment for 13, 26, 39 and 52 weeks, respectively. Translated, this means that the Department has spent more money on companies doing nothing in a single payment than on four separate payments combined for actual services they are meant to be providing for people. Therefore, the argument has to be made on behalf of the Irish taxpayer that if it is costing €32.9 million to support the person into sustained employment, why are we spending more than €15 million on signatures alone?
The operation of JobPath indicates that substantial fraudulent behaviour is occurring on a regular basis with the full knowledge and encouragement of the Department. The programme is meant to be for 30 hours of employment per week. The companies are only required to assist for 30 hours over four weeks. This allows the company to retain the citizen and receive taxpayer payments for him or her and the citizen can be referred back to the programme. The document provided features a variety of victims' statements regarding this practice. The use of sanctions is a method of saving. It is being used to repay Ireland's bailout programme. With regard to sanctions, the money is transferred back into central funding where the Minister for Finance has already used central funding to lower Ireland's bank bailout costs. It is fair to ask whether the contractual terms of the bailout programme are not just terms to agree and honour but are another method of having taxpayers repay the debt.
The JobPath companies contracted by the Department have been hiring referred clients for JobPath staff. For this, the companies receive all JobPath payments as each company is required to shoulder the cost of its staffing for the JobPath programme. Doing so permits additional bonus payments to be made. This is a breach of the JobPath tender contract. Translated, it means the companies are gaining two separate taxpayer payments for each staff position. This permits them to control the number of payments they receive for each staff job. This issue is referred to in the United People JobPath 2019 report.
Another issue is that unemployed people are sent a letter stating they are invited to attend JobPath while the real message at the bottom of the letter is effectively that they must turn up or else suffer financially. Translated, this means that people are allegedly being press ganged as a result of financial threats from the State. Many of the victims' statements bear out this view. At the initial meeting, people are instructed to sign the PPP. They are not told at any point that they have the legal right to decline a request to sign a PPP. There are two main criminal offences committed by JobPath companies that occur in respect of a person's legal right not to enter into a private contract.
Where a person is forced into a private contract under any form of threat or sanction it is a criminal offence under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. Where a person is coerced and sanctioned it is a criminal offence under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. This has been proved to the court's satisfaction in Damien Fagan's High Court case. We speak for many who do not have a voice and who have allegedly been the targets of bullying, coercion, intimidation, financial starvation and more by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on the rash say of companies. A case in point is Gerry Tobin and we have included the details in the report we have supplied.
Additionally, people are told to apply for any job and, in many cases, it does not matter whether they are suited for the job or not. They are ordered to apply and if they do not do so, more threats are issued via the private companies. State services are supposed to work with citizens on their day-to-day requirements, including family schedules and health conditions. In reality, the opposite occurs in JobPath. Too many times, people have been sanctioned or cut off for having the cheek to go to hospital or drop their children to school first. Subsequently, they have been unable to make very poorly assigned appointment times.
As JobPath has continued, hundreds of people, and possibly thousands, have allegedly found themselves abused and shouted out, had their children shouted at and made to feel inadequate and treated as if they were second-class citizens to kick about. They have been treated harmfully, allegedly with assaults and sexual harassment, their personal data abused and illegally deprived of money that has left them hungry and perhaps homeless and at the mercy of others and more. Committee members will find examples of all of this in the documentation I have supplied. In some cases, people have tried to kill themselves on JobPath property. They have cracked from the physical and mental abuse they have allegedly suffered so the two companies and their additional funds can make massive private profits. This is a simple scratching of the JobPath surface. If the committee delves deeper, it will find far more shocking issues. This is nothing worse of ongoing mass State-sanctioned abuse.
With regard to why speaking up about JobPath is important and why an investigation should take place, the State is knowingly and unknowingly, openly and covertly, allegedly abusing human rights, law breaking at a national and international level while further undermining the present and future rights of all those employed and unemployed carers, parents and individuals. JobPath exposes inherent flaws in the departmental systems that allow this to happen. In reality, private businesses are further profiting while a nation of citizens loses quality of life rights to self-determination. We have spoken to victims of JobPath from all walks of life. We have heard their pain and seen their distress and financial hardships due to JobPath. Many have had mental breakdowns. Some have ended up spiralling into depression, which has resulted in legal and illegal drug taking. We have supplied victim statements on this. As they have explained their current situation they have cried and, to be brutally honest, I have cried with them. JobPath encroaches on the rights of every citizen in Ireland. We say without a shadow of a doubt that in the vast majority of cases, JobPath is not of benefit to citizens. However, it is a future inquiry in the making and a drain on taxpayers' money.
For the past few years, as our investigation has continued, our families have had the patience of saints but they all completely understand why we persist in helping the many citizens who have been wronged. It is the duty of every citizen in Ireland not only to hold those who have been elected accountable but also to hold accountable the Departments and programmes they oversee. How can we do anything less? I thank the committee for allowing us to come before it today. We look forward to any questions members may have.
Ms Catherine Greene:
I thank the committee for its invitation to contribute to this very valuable discussion. I am the chair of the Adult Education Guidance Association of Ireland, AEGAI. I work in the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board as a co-ordinator of guidance. I deliver guidance in the Bray area and I co-ordinate the service throughout Wicklow. Today, I am representing the 37 services that work in the 16 education and training boards. I am here to promote and advocate on our behalf because prior to JobPath coming along, we saw ourselves as the organisation that should have been doing the job that JobPath is now doing.
The adult education guidance services, AEGS, were established in 2000 in response to a White Paper from the Department of Education and Skills entitled Learning for Life. Adult guidance was recognised in the White Paper as the linchpin in the lifelong learning model, enabling adults to make educational, work and life transitions in a fast-moving technology based, globalised society. Guidance counsellors in the adult education guidance services are professionally qualified to postgraduate level in guidance, as set out in the Department of Education and Skills course recognition framework document of 2016. The services provide a full-time, year round, objective, professional, quality-assured guidance and information service. They provide guidance at pre-entry, entry, ongoing, pre-exit and follow–up stages for those engaged in adult education and training. The service is underpinned by a number of principles. These are being learner and client centred, confidentiality, impartiality, equal opportunities, accessibility, transparency and empowerment. These come directly from Learning for Life, from which we were instigated and received our legal framework.
The AEGS model is informed by national and EU guidelines for guidance provision. EU policy in the Lisbon Agenda identifies lifelong guidance as central to a successful dynamic knowledge-based economy, viewing it as an effective conduit between education and sustainable employment while promoting social inclusion. This is also written into the national skills strategy to 2025.
We were very excited when the SOLAS further education and training strategy was launched in 2014. Under section 10 of the strategy, the adult education guidance services were recognised by SOLAS and the Department of Education and Skills as the model for delivery of educational and career guidance to adults in Ireland. The roll-out of the SOLAS further education and training strategy underlines the need for guidance and the centrality of guidance in the Government's job strategy. The further education and training strategy recognises that the planning process must consider and identify how the needs of the learner, employer and community are met and how effective guidance services can ensure a return on taxpayers' investment. I am aware the committee is also examining the issue of quality of service.
As stated in the SOLAS further education and training strategy, the adult education guidance services enable individuals and, therefore, communities to achieve their developmental, personal, social, career and employment aspirations. Guidance facilitates the acquisition of career management skills and benefits employees throughout their working life. The adult education guidance services provide a professional, impartial and confidential service to all those who are over 16 and out of school up to post-retirement age. We work closely with second level colleagues. I will not take a second level student who has a guidance counsellor but if someone of that age has dropped out of school, and unfortunately some do, we recommend them to YouthReach and sometimes we place them in part-time programmes for adults. This is not always suitable but we work with them to ensure we can get them back into education.
Through our referral protocol with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, which has been in place since 2012, and our links with local State and voluntary agencies, including local community mental health agencies, enterprise partnerships, enterprise boards, regional skills fora, the Money Advice & Budgeting Service, citizens information centres and all social inclusion programmes, we meet more than 52,000 clients on an annual basis, supporting them in education, training and employment. We can evidence this work through our national client database, which shows the outcomes, including the acquisition of new skills, increased certification and progression in career development, all of which enhance the likelihood of long-term unemployed individuals eventually performing more highly-skilled jobs in the workplace. Every year, our statistics are detailed in the National Centre for Guidance Education's adult guidance report. Before the moratorium and austerity measures, we met more than 68,000 people because we had full staffing. We were deeply affected during the moratorium. The problem was that JobPath was ruled out. If we had received investment at that time, the employment statistics would be much better.
According to A Strategic Review of Further Education and Training and the Unemployed by Professor John Sweeney, which was published in 2013, effective guidance services help ensure a return to the taxpayer from the use of public funds. Professor Sweeney analysed our service with regard to it being the one that should have been linked to the further education and training strategy.
The Adult Education Guidance Association of Ireland supports the development of an integrated further education and training guidance service, as envisaged in the SOLAS further education and training strategy, building on the practice in operation in our service.
Currently, because of the lack of a coherent, joined-up approach to guidance there is a fragmentation in the way guidance services are being delivered which is wasteful of taxpayers' money. In our recent submission to the career guidance review carried out by the Department of Education and Skills and Indecon, we recommended an interdepartmental framework for adult guidance. An overarching body should be established representing all stakeholders in guidance, that is, the Departments of Education and Skills, Business, Enterprise and Innovation and Employment and Social Protection, Education and Training Boards Ireland, ETBI, SOLAS, the National Centre for Guidance in Education, NCGE, and other organisations. I refer also to IBEC, which is a fantastic organisation. We have met with its officials. We accepted much of what was in the report it published in September as part of its Smarter World, Smarter Work campaign. I understand the Indecon report, which has not been published, agrees with this. If committee members have any influence at all, I call on them to please get that report published for us. It was carried out in June and was to be out in September. I know that with the schools issue, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, had a lot on his plate when he took up the role. However, we want to see that review because we think it can change the way things are being done with regard to this model.
I wish to compare our service with the JobPath model. That model was based on the model being used by the G4S recruitment company in the UK, which was criticised by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills, Ofsted. It was poor practice to transfer this model and some of its workforce from the UK to Ireland without making any changes or adaptions for working with the Irish public. We have no difficulty with recruitment agencies as a model of accessing employment, but to use these services, people must be highly skilled and workplace-ready. I hate this phrase, but I am going to use it because it is used by the Department; people with a level 1 rating of probability of exit from the live register, PEX 1, can use a recruitment agency. The committee members or I, if we were made redundant tomorrow and got going immediately - before we knew we had been made redundant, actually - would probably be able to use a recruitment agency and get into a job. However, I have met top bankers with top qualifications seeking work. Before JobPath was rolled out, we met every unemployed man and woman in my community and throughout the country between 2011 and 2015. After three months of trying to get a job, even if an applicant has held a highly paid job in Accenture or any of the large businesses or public agencies I could mention, he or she becomes very low. A person who keeps getting rejections in his or her inbox or postbox goes flat. I have seen it so many times. The recruitment-style model is not a guidance model. It can work for a well-educated person who is ready for work. We use this model for those people. My own son is one of those emigrants to Australia; he is working successfully in recruitment. I have nothing against it. Members have better access than I do to the statistics on the effectiveness of the JobPath programme.
According to personal client testimony, to be referred to Turas Nua is to be placed in a vulnerable position and denied access to further education and training. I use the example of Turas Nua because I work with that company, but the same applies to Seetec. There appears to have been a lack of recognition by Turas Nua and Seetec of the trauma undergone by people at a major crossroads in their lives. This is in addition to a lack of understanding of people's need to manage challenging barriers regarding childcare, transport, disability, illness, bereavement, addiction and mental health issues post-redundancy and financial stress. The forced march pattern of this recruitment model has been unsuccessful, with only 9% of participants securing longer-term employment. Those are the results for just one year. Many of my clients have dropped out at the end of a year.
I will direct the committee to the example I gave. One example of inappropriate Turas Nua work was when a case officer from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection made a referral to my service of a 62-year-old man who had left school at ten years of age and had been out of work for 20 years. He was receiving jobseeker's allowance after exiting another service. He suffered from anxiety and his only outing was to walk to his mother's grave in darkness. His basic skills led me to recommend a part-time literacy, communications, computers and woodworking workshop in our local adult education centre. He agreed to engage with the programme and I put counselling skills and other supports to deal with his anxiety issues in place. Following six weeks of the programme he was called by Turas Nua and removed from this education programme. Two weeks later, he came to me in an agitated state. I can recall it so clearly. He asked me to make a CV, as he had been ordered to return to Turas Nua by the end of the week with evidence of having submitted 15 job applications. In this three-week period, while he was engaging with Turas Nua, three different agency advisers contacted me looking for a copy of his CV. One of them had spelled the person's name wrongly. Some of the people who were hired by this organisation did not have the skills to deal with the type of person they were dealing with, which is difficult.
Our client did a full year with Turas Nua without getting any work. We recently learned that he has been returned to the agency and he will be with them until September 2019. Currently, he is not engaged in any education, training or employment but is required to attend on a monthly basis, when he has a chat with a very nice gentleman. I now have a better relationship with the people in Turas Nua because they are putting clients onto our programmes. However, we have to do double the work. I have to get in touch with Turas Nua, I have to get in touch with the Department and I have to get the file sent. It then takes six to eight weeks. The clients have lost as much as three months with Turas Nua. It is duplication and a waste of time and bureaucracy.
Our own case study is in the NCGE database. I will not go through it, but members can see that the model we are working by was very successful. Following on from the Turas Nua case study, it is clear that the one-size-fits-all approach taken by the agency does not deal with the individual circumstances and displays no long-term strategy towards career development, confidence-building and educational qualifications, without which there is limited access to sustainable employment. Over a period of time our professional approach leads to better outcomes. In our experience, particularly for those with very basic skills, the minimum term required to gain new skills is one to two years attending further education or training ranked on levels 3 to 5 by Quality and Qualifications Ireland, QQI, or accessing a traineeship or apprenticeship. The new traineeships are great. A longer time would be required if a client wants to gain a degree or a higher level of education. Once in employment people can continue their education through part-time options like Springboard+, evening training courses and on-the-job training, where provided.
One wonders how the JobPath approach and outcomes can be validated. It is difficult to understand how the approach, with its narrow objectives focused only on employment, fits into the national skills strategy. It does not align with the broader need for upskilling and social inclusion and the goals of the Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025 for people across Ireland. As stated on page 17 of the strategy, the Government's objectives in support of its vision include the following: "Education and training providers will place a stronger focus on providing skills development opportunities that are relevant to the needs of learners, society and the economy ... The quality of teaching and learning at all stages of education will be continually enhanced and evaluated ... There will be a specific focus on active inclusion to support participation in education and training and the labour market."
Our model includes an integrated information officer, a guidance counsellor, that is, myself, and our CV and interview skills service which is second to none. In the example I gave, the service met a woman who was made redundant, had lost confidence and was out of work back into a job. She is working happily in administration.
We are working closely with employers now. Recently an employer was looking to take on somebody with good administration and communication skills. I called four of our previous clients in the past three months. Based on our CV and interview skills work, three of them had secured positions. This was because I was looking at people who were ready for work. One was in Accenture, a good company, another in an Irish university and a third in a good local company in my community in Bray. We can evidence this in our database.
Since its establishment in 2000, the Adult Education Guidance Association, AEGS, has been the service charged to work with those who were unemployed and marginalised so that they can avail of education and access opportunities to obtain sustainable employment and facilitate social cohesion. This objective was further developed in 2012 by the protocol for referral from Intreo case officers to our service. We have a fantastic relationship with case officers at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. They cannot say this, but they would do anything to avoid the person they are serving having to go back to Turas Nua or Seetec. They want those people to get an opportunity for education, and we work well with them when they come to us in the initial phase.
We work extremely well with them when they come to us in the initial phase.
Furthermore, we note the recent debate about the service delivery model of JobPath, which has been awarded a budget of €140 million since 2015. Just 9% of participants have progressed into full-time employment. According to the document from which I am reading, some 11,000 participants who previously used Turas Nua are, like my client, returning for a second year of participation. However, I believe that figure may be wrong. Deputy Brady will correct me if it is. In the same four-year period between 2015 and 2018, our services met with and progressed more than 208,000 beneficiaries on an annual budget of just €6.5 million, with a cost to the State of €125 per beneficiary. I assure the committee that our services are not looking for more money for ourselves or anything like that. We want the committee to support an increase in our service. We want our service to be rolled out as the service that replaces the JobPath model. We were chosen to be the replacement in the Government's SOLAS further education and training strategy. It is crucial to mention that we provide a service to all unemployed individuals, including those not entitled to social welfare payments, the low-skilled employed, those on zero-hour contracts, the underemployed, those facing redundancy, early school leavers and those who have left college without securing employment. Unfortunately, many high-skilled people are now underemployed.
The AEGS would also like to raise the demand for progression for clients accessing education and training by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. This can be counterproductive when jobs are changing so rapidly and qualifications are outdated. Any of us in this room could leave work tomorrow or be made redundant. I know that my IT skills would have to be significantly updated. I would be afraid to go for a job, even if I had many other qualifications for it, because of this weakness. I am sure there are people in this room who will need opportunities when they leave this room today. If one needed a level 6 qualification in supervisory management, the Department would not allow one to pursue such a qualification because it requires progress to be made.
Ms Catherine Greene:
I am going further. I will move on. One of the key things I want to say is that the JobPath project involves the displacement of public services. It also involves duplication. For that reason, I would like to come back to the value for money exercise. We hope and believe our service can deliver that. A key component of our work involves helping the long-term unemployed. Professor Tony Watts of Cambridge University has highlighted that the career guidance counselling process focuses not only on finding jobs for people, but also on supporting people to become resilient and to construct their own career journeys. We are hopeful that the guidance review will be published soon and will ensure a national lifelong career guidance strategy will be rolled out to ensure coherent career guidance provision is provided for all individuals at all life stages. I thank the committee for the opportunity to address it.
Dr. Ray Griffin:
I thank the Chairman and the members of the committee for inviting us to present our research and contribute to the discussion on JobPath. I am joined by Dr. Aisling Tuite, an Irish Research Council post-doctoral researcher who is working on the Waterford unemployment research collaborative project at WIT Since 2012, we have interviewed 121 unemployed individuals as part of our aspiration to capture the experience of unemployment. Our work over seven years has captured the considerable transformation of welfare services under the Pathways to Work policy initiative. Since 2014, in our data we can clearly see a significant shift towards a less supportive, more conditional, less empathetic and more pressurising welfare system in which the threat of sanctions is ever-present. The individuals who are subject to this system are forced to perform as directed by Intreo case officers or JobPath providers, often against their better judgment and usually without any positive outcome for themselves.
Since 2016, many jobseekers have distinguished between their experience in Intreo offices and their experience after being referred to JobPath. They feel that the pressure on them intensified distinctly after this referral. They moved from a bureaucratic system which could be unsympathetic and was often given to autocratic direction and demands to a system that actively and capriciously patronises, cajoles, threatens, manipulates and, at times, bullies them. Many of them believe this service represents a deliberate attempt by the State to lower their expectations of work in terms of their reservation wage and an interference in their family and caring responsibilities. They believe that long-term concerns for career development and life balance are notably absent among JobPath providers. They consider that while welfare services may be intended to support re-entry into work, many aspects of various schemes compound the negative experience of unemployment.
In our research, we encountered 25 individuals who reported direct personal experiences with JobPath, largely through Turas Nua. We did not seek positive or negative experiences. Instead, we looked for authentic accounts of the contemporary experience of unemployment. We encountered reflections on the service that are very different from those in the evaluations of the Department and of JobPath providers. All 25 interviewees recalled being forced to undertake futile bureaucratic routines, such as mandated and monitored job search activity. For example, they were watched over while they sat at a computer for a number of hours to ensure they did Internet searches for jobs. When they had their CVs rewritten for them, they considered that their CVs were massaged to orient them towards existing job interviews without reference to long-term career development, personal circumstances or responsibilities. All of the people to whom we spoke reported that they were forced to undertake coaching, personal effectiveness and confidence training that was delivered largely by unqualified and inexperienced trainers and served to undermine their confidence and sense of self-worth. They were asked over and over again to provide proof of job searches, under suspicion of duplicity. They felt intimidated over technical or minor infractions of the Byzantine rules of these schemes. They were often required to accept employment that they considered incompatible with their career ambitions or family responsibilities.
I would like to provide some specific examples. More detailed cases are set out in our submission. We encountered a woman who was sanctioned and ended up relying on a food bank and on high-interest debt. We encountered a Traveller who, despite a decade of full-time schooling, left the education system with low levels of literacy. He was enrolled in mandated training that required high levels of literacy. He had his name amended on his CV against his wishes to conceal his ethnicity when searching for a job. We encountered an aspiring architect with carefully husbanded career ambitions who found that her job search was micromanaged in a way that undermined her carefully laid plan to develop a reputation with local employers. She was directed to reduce her expectations and accept other types of work. We also encountered a pregnant woman was directed, under threat of sanction, to accept work at a call centre in a location some distance away which she had absolutely no means of getting to. There was no public transport. She was advised to make friends with people so that she could car-share, car-pool or something.
We should emphasise that all respondents gave details of the continual threat of sanctions, which had the effect of making it appear that it was compulsory to engage and comply with the various tasks they were encouraged to undertake. Our data demonstrate that beyond the application of sanctions, the process of activation under threat of sanction is in and of itself a negative experience. The process is a punishment. Our qualitative data is commensurate with international experiences. If we compare the percentage of individuals sanctioned against international benchmarks, we will find that JobPath is not a harsh sanctioning regime. However, we know that the ever-present threat of sanctions has negative long-term consequences for the well-being and future earnings of individuals. Officially, sanctioning decisions are made only by the Intreo office but the experience of jobseekers is that in practice, a recommendation of sanction by a JobPath provider appears to be a fait accompli. When we spoke to counter staff and case officers in welfare offices as part of prior research, JobPath providers were described as making decisions on sanctions, with Intreo simply implementing them. In our interview data, we did not encounter any positive experience that we could report to the committee today.
My colleague, Dr. Boland, will detail our policy evaluation of JobPath.
Dr. Tom Boland:
Our interviewees experience of JobPath is that it is a scheme that actively undermines their personal reservation wage and labour market expectations so that they will accept any job however unsustainable, unsuitable and precarious. It is inspired by behavioural economics and the idea of subtle nudges. JobPath assumes that the problem of unemployment is idleness and that a work-first approach will ultimately lead to sustainable, high-quality employment. In practice, these measures constituted a stressful and unwelcome intervention in people's lives and was even described as traumatic in some cases.
All of these interventions are made under the threat of sanction for non-compliance. This pressurises jobseekers to find any work. That may explain why 25% of people commence work but only 9% are still employed after 52 weeks, which is the same percentage as if participants had not gone through the process. International research has begun to re-evaluate the maxims that any job is better than none, and that work is always the quickest route out of poverty, which is not the case.
Many of the JobPath interventions were already emerging under Intreo and were part of the traditional local employment service that supports the unemployed. What is distinctive here is that they have intensified and become aggressive, and more punitive, under JobPath. This is due to the pay-by-results model or the recruitment of staff on short-term contracts without necessarily having professional careers in the welfare system, as per guidance supplied by Education and Training Boards Ireland.
Given what JobPath aspires to do, the contract has an unfeasibly short horizon that does not facilitate the building of durable institutional resources on the awardees part. If Ireland has a perpetual need for the complex and highly-contextual pastoral skills of nurturing disaffected jobseekers back into the labour market, it takes time to build such a capacity and, if done correctly, can be valuable. However, a four-year contract is an unsuitable instrument for this activity.
I shall talk about the so-called "creaming and dumping". Our interviewees mostly reported being acutely aware from their experience of JobPath of the so-called payments by results model that drives the initiative, and so they all had a realistic understanding of their own personal labour markets. They actively encouraged and supported their JobPath caseworker in "creaming and dumping" but tended to grow frustrated when asked to do things that they perceived to be harmful to their career prospects or responsibilities. In effect, they tried to negotiate the "creaming and dumping" that they knew to be going on.
It is worth noting that there is a very significant inconsistency in the geographical distribution of sanctions. The distribution does not correspond to the level of population of the unemployed and ranges from an 8% sanction rate in Louth or Limerick to almost 0% in Mayo. This inexplicable variation is consistent with our long-held view derived from research that there is a significant variation in how rules and eligibility are applied and interpreted office by office, day by day and welfare officer by welfare officer. The thicket of schemes and their constant reform, adjustment and modification make the rights of a service user unclear and contingent on both user and front-line staff.
In conclusion, activation in the form of human capital building and supported job search can have long-term positive effects on the supply side of the labour market. We suggest that investing in training and the back-to-education scheme are the best tools for doing so.
Policies that emphasise welfare conditionality and sanctions are short sighted. They require compliance under threat of being put below the minimum level of income and this mainly has negative consequences. There is significant international research on the consequences of sanctioning from short-term poverty to long-term health, and negative future effects on earnings and employment. The knock-on effects on the economy are to foster precarious, low-wage or no-wage cycles and alienate those who are already most disadvantaged, and to unfairly pressurise those who are temporarily out of work. Rather than using the stick and carrot approach we suggest removing the threat of sanctions as a core administrative tool because the benefits of an education opportunity or a job should be sufficient motivation in themselves. Sanctions may have some part to play in the benefits system but their current role is out of all proportion and against the principles of natural justice. Clearly, sanctions should be subject to stronger regulation and oversight, and we have recommended stronger and more specific measures elsewhere in our previous research and submissions.
In terms of JobPath, the payment-by-results and short-term orientation of the JobPath contract are unsuitable policy instruments. The power that providers wield over the unemployed is neither appropriate nor commensurate with the vulnerability of this population. The "work first" approach involves market coaxing, which involves reducing the choices and expectations of jobseekers, reduces public faith in the social safety net and undermines the entire labour market.
The impact of JobPath on individual lives is decidedly negative even when sanctions were not imposed. We envisage a long-term impact on overall social cohesion for these policies as a result of the experience and throughput of so many citizens through these initiatives. We suggest that the committee should advise strongly against renewing JobPath and that we need to learn lessons from this expensive, costly at the point of use and broadly ineffective misadventure because we must seek to build a high-quality labour market welfare policy.
I thank Dr. Griffin and Dr. Boland for their presentations. I shall ask them general questions about their research before handing over to committee members.
I am not wearing my glasses so I cannot read the figures but I think they said that their research, since 2012, involved interviews with 121 unemployed people of whom 25 subsequently had experience or contact with JobPath. How valid is it to compare their findings with a national programme that involved thousands of people? Is a sample pool of 25 people appropriate for making broader findings? Is the sample pool representative in terms of age, gender and geographic location? I am not criticising the research and ask my questions in order that this committee can understand the profile. The research referred to 25 people, and their experiences were recorded in great detailed. In terms of their age, profile, gender, education and geographic location, how can one apply that information and make comments and recommendations on a national programme? The information would help the committee.
Dr. Tom Boland:
We appreciate that there are different strengths and challenges with quantitative, statistical and qualitative work. Not all of the people we spoke to were aware that they were dealing with JobPath or Turas Nua. People do not always distinguish between Intreo and Turas Nua.
Our research is ongoing. We have a PhD researcher who is currently conducting our research, and we have specifically built in gender, age and rural or urban weightings as per the composition of the research.
Dr. Ray Griffin:
We do not think there is a coherent experience of unemployment in Ireland. Each unemployed person is radically different and has his or her own life course. There is no coherent system for administering unemployment in social welfare offices. For example, the sanctioning rate in Wexford is 8% but in Waterford it is close to 1%. Even in very narrow geographic spaces one finds a huge experience. It incorporates people who have very vulnerable lives, people who have had very difficult lives and people who are transitioning from one job to another. The way we administer unemployment is called unemployment but the experience of it is another matter.
To clarify, we have conducted 121 interviews since 2012. We specifically do a tranche of people every second year. The 25 people that we encountered are the ones who naturally and specifically referenced JobPath as we interviewed them and they relayed their experience. It is a random sample. What is very interesting is that each one has consistently reported a negative experience. In the data set from 2012 to 2015 there was a much wider account of the experience of unemployment. Since then the situation has become more consistent. Instead of looking to themselves as not getting a job for personal reasons, people now rate their experience of unemployment as being a negative experience that is being administered to them by the State.
I thank our guests for their testimonials and analysis, which were very useful. They reflected many of the issues not just in respect of JobPath but also those raised in the wider report prepared by this committee on unemployment. One of the key issues is the appropriateness of placing in terms of quality and the importance of linking to a work-first approach versus an education, training or route-forward approach. I ask our guests to elaborate on that because we found, even from those who had produced initial reports that talked about work first or the different outcomes, that education had not led to immediate employment options but did lead to better prospects down the line. Where training is seen as not giving the right options, it is sometimes because it is not appropriate training. I ask our guests to elaborate further on the work-first issue. It was interesting to hear that in some cases this has damaged people's employment prospects and their career. As was described in one of the examples, if people are in a small town where there is a limited number of employers and are forced to look for inappropriate jobs, they are marking themselves down the line. The issue of reskilling is also important here.
The threat of sanctions is another issue. We are often told that sanctions are not really being applied at a high level, although the figures show that their application is increasing significantly. The threat of sanctions, however, can damage proper supported engagement. The issue of decision and implementation was also interesting. There seems be a lack of questioning of recommendations for potential sanction that come from Turas Nua or Seetec. That was elaborated upon by Mr. Rudd and Mr. Fagan. I ask them to talk a little bit more about that. What is the pattern or the process? We have been told that Turas Nua and Seetec have no role in sanctioning but it seems that they direct it.
Our guests referred to the damage to overall social cohesion. Mr. Boland, Mr. Griffin and Ms Greene spoke in a positive way and stated that when individuals are getting appropriate supports, it benefits not just them but the entire community. That is the flip side of the vision. I thank those to whom I referred for their presentation because I had not been aware of the extent of the work involved. It showed where we could be in terms of supporting individuals. It also highlights the ancillary benefits of recognising people as humans because in doing that, we are supporting their families too. I would imagine that the stress of being forced into inappropriate work under threat of sanction means that rather than employment being a positive experience in the wider family context, it creates a ripple effect.
I have a technical question for Ms. Greene. She mentioned that she works with all unemployed persons. I am interested in qualified adults, those who are not on the live register and those who may only be available on a part-time basis. Intreo has not really been able to accommodate such people as much as it should. Perhaps JobPath is more appropriate and I ask our guests to speak to that issue. There were several references to care responsibilities. In some cases, that might result in part-time availability but, in others, it might mean that people are not available to do shift work, for example, or that they would need a very predictable schedule. I ask our guests to talk more about the issue of family responsibilities. It may be the case that people are available for 40 hours per week but that they need predictability.
I am very interested in what Mr. Rudd and Mr. Fagan had to say about power of attorney in the context of personal progression plans, a matter I will investigate further. I have previously submitted amendments, unsuccessfully, to social welfare legislation in the context of such plans. I have concerns about them but our guests have raised a different and new concern that I will look into.
I welcome all of our guests and thank them for their very powerful presentations. It is always interesting to get an outside view through a different lens. I have looked at this matter comprehensively in recent years and have heard all of the stories which have, unfortunately, been dismissed by two Ministers. The Taoiseach, when he was Minister for Social Protection, dismissed them and the current Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, has also dismissed them.
Today's presentations, based on interviews with participants, shows that many identified JobPath as the State deliberately attempting to lower people's expectations of work. When the then Minister for Social Protection, now the Taoiseach, came before this committee previously, he let the mask slip when questioned on JobPath. He said that people need to give up their idea of a dream job. We are talking here about people with qualifications, including teachers who are engaged in part time employment because of the nature of contracts or doing substitute work and so on. That is the ideology that is driving this and that is coming through from people participating in JobPath and also from Ministers.
Ms Greene made some interesting observations about the people with whom she engaged, including a 62 year old man who had left school at the age of ten and who had been unemployed for 20 years. He engaged with the services, not in the context of the narrow employment-only focus or objective but in terms of a skill set that was identified to suit him. It was interesting that JobPath was able to take that person who was engaging, in terms of doing woodwork, ICT courses and learning other skills that were needed to get him back into the workforce, out of that setting. He is one of the 15,000 people who have been called back up to engage with the programme a second time. Is that a common occurrence? How does that come about? It is absolutely appalling.
Our guests referred to people being referred to JobPath and then being referred from JobPath back to the adult guidance service and how that comes about. It was interesting to hear their analysis in terms of duplication and so forth. I ask them to elaborate further on that. We have heard evidence from other groups on these issues. I have engaged with the local employment service, which does phenomenal work across the State. Its representatives have told me that if that service had been given additional resources, it would have been able to expand and take on the work now being done by the private companies, Turas Nua and Seetec. Since the introduction of JobPath, the number of people being referred to the local employment service has gone down, year on year, because more people are going into the privatised setting. Do our guests have any figures in that regard? Could Ms Greene supply figures in respect of the people who were referred to her service between 2016 and 2018? Has there been a decrease in the numbers being referred to her since JobPath began?
The Chairman will allow questions first and then allow the delegates to respond. How does the adult guidance service differ? What occurs when someone engages with Ms Greene? We know what individuals have to do when they go to JobPath. As we know from the evidence given by Mr. Rudd and others, at the best of times they have to go at times that do not suit them. When an individual engages with the service, are there regular meetings? Is there a weekly meeting? We are aware no sanctions are imposed on individuals.
Could the witnesses wait until the questions are finished? There has been a variety of questions. We will take all the questions first and then I will give every witness an opportunity to respond to what is relevant to him or her. I ask Deputy Brady to conclude briefly.
I have just a couple of additional points. We know the contract for JobPath, Turas Nua and Seetec is due to expire this year. I have been calling for it to be cut right now. That needs to happen. What would the witnesses like to see happen in the here and now, if the Minister is not prepared to curtail the contract? Would the adult guidance service be in a position to meet the demand at that point?
I have a couple of questions for some of the other witnesses. I ask for the Chairman's indulgence because this is an important area. I was taken by the evidence given by both witnesses. Mr. Rudd gave a figure on signing the PPPs, amounting to €557.70. At a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts prior to Christmas, we heard for the first time evidence indicating the actual costs and expenditure. A figure of €311 was given for every signature. Reference was made to the different sustainment payments for 13 weeks, 26 weeks, 39 weeks and 52 weeks, namely, €613, €737, €892 and €1,165, respectively. Where did the figure of €557.70 come for in respect of the signing of the PPPs? That contradicts the evidence we have been given, which refers to €311.
I have just a couple of concluding questions. Very powerful information was contained in the witnesses' statement. I engaged in a comprehensive analysis whereby people could come to me and give me their evidence. As with the witnesses' engagement with the 25 witnesses, I got no positive feedback on JobPath. The one thing that struck me was the individual who had his identity curtailed. There was an attempt to hide it. I am talking about the Traveller man who was forced against his will to have his name changed to get a job. He would not agree to it. The change was made on his CV. That is absolutely appalling, particularly when this House passed a momentous Bill last year that gave recognition to Travellers and their ethnicity.
It was absolutely appalling.
I remember reading a book by Pádraig Pearse many years ago. It was called The Murder Machineand was about the education system. It contended everyone was moulded to be the same, coming down a conveyor belt.With regard to labour activation, everyone is expected to conform to the same product and have his or her identity done away with solely to get into low-pay, precarious employment. That is the essence of all this. The witnesses have done comprehensive work. It would be very worthwhile if they were prepared to give it to this committee for further analysis. It is powerful work. Have the findings or the report been given to the Minister? The Minister is in complete denial. She still stands over the fallacy that JobPath is the most successful labour activation scheme in the history of the State. She fails to take into consideration that thousands of people have been bullied, intimidated and cajoled and have had their identities robbed, stolen and suppressed to get into low-paid, precarious employment.
I have a couple of additional questions. I thank the witnesses. They are doing great work. I thank them on behalf of everybody who is a victim of this vicious system. I do not know whether any of them watched "I, Daniel Blake". It was on television again over Christmas and it was my second or third time to see it. What keeps coming back into one's head are the outcomes of the vicious ways of trying to force people into employment, including unsuitable employment. Mostly it is vicious because, now in 2019, there is almost full employment and employers are crying out for workers. Why are the penalties increasing?
I tabled a parliamentary question on this issue in October. The number of sanctions increased from 359 in 2011, when the system was introduced, to 11,169 in 2018, with 55,828 in total over the whole period. There is no explanation for that other than that it is punitive. It cuts back on the appearance that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is doing its job. In fact, it is paying out all the money to private companies.
I have a few questions for Mr. Rudd on that issue. As mentioned by Deputy Brady, a figure of €557.70 per signature was quoted, which I accept. How in the name of God is such a figure calculated? It is €557.70, not €558, €600 or €550. Who is it calculated so exactly to the level of cents? What the hell is going on there? What is going on when the two companies are subcontracting or outsourcing their own work? Could the delegates explain what they believe is happening? Is it that the companies cannot cope with the volume of penalties they are introducing or the volume of individuals coming to them through Intreo or random selection?
Have any of the delegates done work on the number of individuals who have been blocked from going back to education or into a community employment scheme? They are called into JobPath and are told by a different Department, almost simultaneously, sometimes within days or even hours, that they have the back-to-education allowance or that there is a community employment scheme on which they may participate. They are immediately blocked by JobPath from going into the back-to-education scheme or community employment, which is a huge contradiction in terms of what the Government says it is trying to achieve.
It is also very clear that much of the work individuals are being forced into is precarious. Before Christmas, we passed a Bill, the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, to try to organise around and stop the spread of precarious work. Look at what we are doing; we are forcing people further into precarious work.
I, too, want to comment on the name change forced on the Traveller man to hide his ethnicity. I came from a meeting with the Oireachtas Traveller group the other day at which the Minister explained to us all the various initiatives the Government is taking to bring about the recognition of Traveller ethnicity. It is another contradiction in Government policy that an effort was made to force Travellers to change their ethnicity while another Department was spending a fortune on creating committees to help Travellers gain ethnicity rights.
Those are my main questions. They concern the blocking of individuals, the calculation of the cost, outsourcing and the precarious nature of employment.
My last question might require a long answer but if that is the case, Mr. Rudd might be able to expand on it in writing. In his submission, Mr. Rudd said that one of the agendas of the Department is to honour the IMF and the EU agreement. Will he expand on that? What does the agreement actually state that the Government has agreed with the IMF and the EU? What does it state about forcing people into this kind of a contract through the State machine?
I thank Deputy Smith. Before I go to the witnesses, I want to put everything in context. I thank them for their presentations and for attending. They are part of a process. This is an issue the committee has been investigating for a while and we are coming towards the end of our hearings. The committee will then produce a report with findings and recommendations. As Deputy Brady indicated, JobPath as we know it is coming to an end so the report is timely.
I ask the witnesses to avoid repetition in their comments and to refer as specifically as possible to the points that were raised. I especially ask them to be mindful that there are two elements to the report. There will be findings on the JobPath programme. The other aspect stems from Mr. Boland's comment on a recommendation to discontinue the policy immediately. Ms Greene talked about what could have been. As a committee, we are equally concerned with the witnesses' vision of what they would see following the current phase of JobPath. They can give details of that before the committee today or, because time is limited, they can follow up in writing.
We, as a committee, will make recommendations for the future. That is an important point to make. The witnesses have highlighted many issues. I am not being dismissive of them, as they will be part of the findings, but the committee is also interested in recommendations, suggestions and proposals from the witnesses. There is limited time for them to contribute today, so if they want to submit those in writing afterwards to the committee, we will consider them. I call Mr. Rudd first and ask him to be specific, avoid repetition and mind the time. There have been a number of questions on the €550 rate so I ask him to start with the money.
Mr. Jeff Rudd:
The 2013 JobPath tender document, which is available online for anybody to read, states that the companies get 15% of the total price. As this committee has discovered for itself, the total price is €3,718 and 15% of that gives the figure of €550 exactly. It is simple mathematics if we check the 2013 tender document where 15% is quoted as the bonus for the signatures. It boils down to that.
Mr. Jeff Rudd:
Rolling sanctions have been going on for some time. In one of the submissions provided, in the victim statements and in the United People report, I mention the case of Mr. Gerry Tobin. I have his full permission to refer to him. He was sanctioned from March last year until 22 December 2018. There were non-stop rolling sanctions. Under the Social Welfare Acts 2005 and 2010, after nine weeks a client or anybody who has been sanctioned, even outside of JobPath, is supposed to go back on the normal social welfare rates for at least one week before another nine-week round of sanctions is supposed to kick in. That did not happen in Mr. Tobin's case but his is only one example. It has happened in many cases.
He was sanctioned from March until 22 December and he still has not got his money back. There was a promise that he might get some of it back. We have documentation stating that he was sanctioned because he did not sign a personal progression plan, PPP. It is on record that on 8 March Mr. John Conlon, assistant secretary of the Department of Employment Action and Social Protection, stated to the Committee of Public Accounts that people do not have to sign the PPP. It is a legal right to retain the right to not sign a private contract.
Yet Mr. Tobin was punished for trying to retain his legal right to not sign a private contract. We have many examples of that. I have submitted one document today which has 101 victim statements and there are more victim statements in another document. This is an ongoing situation. Rolling sanctions are going on and that is illegal because it is not covered in the Social Welfare Acts. It was admitted that this was so in the High Court in Dublin in the case of Mr. Damien Fagan. The Department admitted that the legislation was not in place to apply these sanctions when somebody declined to sign a PPP but he or she is still willing to engage in the JobPath programme.
In the case of Mr. Gerry Tobin, he was fully willing to engage. He was informed by letter that because he did not sign the PPP, he would be punished. He later discovered, however, that had been done that incorrectly and illegally. The Department then changed the excuse for his sanctioning to non-attendance. Mr. Tobin has proof that he attended every meeting. He has proof in the form of video evidence, the visitor's sign-in book and statements from people who attended along with him. He can prove that he attended every meeting but yet there was an attempt to try to switch the excuse just to keep the rolling sanctions going. To put it bluntly, we went through hell just to try to clear his name. The Department is still only willing to return part of the money to him. That is only one issue.
The subject of a dream job was brought up. Under the Constitution, citizens are guaranteed a right to a great deal of self-determination. This completely conflicts with the Taoiseach's view of a person's entitlement to aim for his or her dream job. Everybody's ambition to even go for it is completely shut down. There is a conflict there that needs to be addressed. I am glad that Deputy Brady brought that up. According to the people that we have talked to, and, as I said in my opening statement, the people that we have cried along with, this is a big thing. From day one, JobPath strips people of any ambition. They are just told to do this or that or else they are sanctioned.
My third point concerns other agencies mentioned by other witnesses. It has been indicated that these agencies, and others that are similar, should have been adopted more and from the very start. The services that they have should have been utilised more. The State could have saved between 60% and 70% of the money that has been put into the JobPath programme by upgrading or using such services as have been mentioned. This is on record. On 8 May, representatives from such services stated this themselves before the Committee of Public Accounts. They have been starved of numbers going into their programmes. One of the victims statements I submitted is from an LES worker and because the numbers dropped - I will explain why they have in a minute - he found himself out of work. He was then sucked into JobPath and told to take a minor job.
This is a Civil Service worker. The numbers have dropped but the sanctions are increasing. The numbers of unemployed are dropping. We can argue about percentages but they are dropping. That means that the group of people available to be sucked into JobPath is getting smaller. The companies are getting more desperate, as are the tactics. There is a high staff turnover at a basic level in the JobPath system because they are pressurised to get people's signatures by any means possible. There is serious pressure on the lower level staff and on the people to sign. It is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed.
Mr. Damien Fagan:
When the companies were hired, they bid the price. The tender document is only half of the contract. The other half of the contract is what the two companies have charged the State. We do not know what they have agreed to; we only know what the State has offered them. This argument has been addressed in the Committee of Public Accounts. When the committee has tried to review the contract to see what exactly is meant to be spent on this programme, a wall of private confidentiality or sensitivity is hit.
Within the make-up of the programme, companies are allowed to charge and subcontract out but they do not have to notify the Committee of Public Accounts or anyone else that they are subcontracting. The companies decide themselves if they want to subcontract. One of the major issues I have with subcontracting is that the companies subcontract to themselves. If we take the example of Turas Nua, it is a joint venture of Working Links and FRS Recruitment, yet it subcontracts back to itself in the form of Working Links. It is part of the main group that was originally awarded the contract.
I cannot be 100% sure why the companies continue to subcontract out but it seems that they have bid at a certain price knowing that they can pass it on to someone else at a reduced price. At the end of the day, however, the taxpayer is paying the bill. We pay the highest price that was offered and the companies then pass it on to a lower price.
The only logical explanation is they are charging more than what it costs to run the programme.
Mr. Jeff Rudd:
Just two, in respect of the name change and blocked education. Deputy Brady referred to the name change. This is an ongoing issue. It does not just involve the name change. Highly skilled people such as part-time nurses, firefighters and tradesmen want to go further but have been asked to consistently dumb down, including their curriculum vitae. In other words, they must lower their expectations, which, to a certain extent, is right. Let us be honest. We should all be working. However, telling a person with a mountain of qualifications that he or she must dumb down their curriculum vitae and take a basic wage job not only affects the person on a financial level, it also affects him or her on an emotional level. It also affects his or her family. It is a case of asking why Daddy with all his qualifications is stacking shelves in a supermarket and what he did to deserve that or, to put it bluntly, asking why Mammy is cleaning toilets when she has qualifications in marketing or design. How does someone explain that to his or her children? How does he or she explain that the Government is fair when this is happening? That is what it boils down to in real life.
Education was brought up. We have found, and this is borne out by the victims' statements, that JobPath companies allow people out to a certain extent to acquire education. However, because of the hype or madness about people speaking out about the current system and JobPath blocking education, the Government announced that it will now allow people to go into education while they are in the JobPath programme. It did not give the full version, which is that people will be allowed to go into limited education but on top of that, they must get the permission of the JobPath companies. I mentioned the case of a part-time nurse. She wanted to upskill with a year-long course but she was not allowed to do so. The JobPath company told her that the most she would be allowed to do would be four to nine weeks of any sort of training. The companies want to hold on to people because each one is trapped within a 12-month contract. If people want to upskill on a serious level - third level - for 12 months on a part-time or full-time basis, that contract runs out and they can escape from JobPath. If they escape from JobPath and get a job after the contract, the companies are unable to claim their additional payments, Consequently, they want to keep the people down to a minimum of time in terms of education. This is a common problem. Up until two days ago, I was still getting phone calls about this. Many people have come to us and told us that they want to engage within the JobPath programme but that they were not being allowed to upskill in the ways they wanted to. They told me that such upskilling will not only benefit them but their families.
Mr. Damien Fagan:
I will respond regarding ideology, the IMF and what we would like to see in the programme. A question was asked about the IMF agreement. I submitted it to the committee in writing. The IMF agreement was signed on 28 November and 8 December 2010 with the EU and the IMF. That agreement contained provisions regarding the introduction of instruments to better identify jobseekers' needs, or "profiling", and increased engagement; a more effective monitoring of jobseekers' activities with regular evidence-based reports; the application of sanction mechanisms for beneficiaries not complying with job search conditionality and recommendations for participation in labour market programmes set in such a way as to imply an effective loss of income without being perceived as excessively penalising so that it could credibly be used whenever lack of compliance is ascertained. That is part of the IMF agreement relating to the bank bailout under the heading of structural reform. I have provided the information. It was on page 21. How is this-----
Could I interrupt Mr. Fagan? Those documents arrived late last night and have not yet been circulated. However, they will be circulated. They arrived after close of business and the committee meeting was the first thing this morning so members will get the documents. Mr. Fagan can take it that members have the documents.
Mr. Damien Fagan:
How does the IMF mix in with JobPath? That was the Secretary General's own admission. The last time he was before the committee on 8 March, he stated that the JobPath programme is in line with the document from 2011 entitled Supports and Services for Unemployed Jobseekers: Challenges and Opportunities in a Time of Recession. It states that anything discussed regarding the creation of a system to deal with long-term unemployment in a time of recession must always meet the terms of the IMF agreement. Regardless of what is discussed, it must still abide by these three conditions. These conditions are to profile, monitor and sanction when someone does not comply with the regulations. How is the IMF involved? It is involved because the paperwork links it all together.
I was asked what I would like to see happen with regard to JobPath. Unfortunately, even if the programme was shut down today, there is nothing one can do. As long as these contract terms are in place, a new programme will be set up to run the same way. I would love to a see a proper activation programme that is designed to help people back into employment or education that is designed specifically for the user but we cannot design it because the IMF says we must have these rules. A company then uses these rules as a business practice from which to benefit. Regardless of whether we shut down the programme today, tomorrow or in two years' time, this will happen with every programme we create until that money is repaid to the IMF and EU. This is just one term and condition that is being applied to the people in the system. There are other areas of the IMF agreement that apply today but this relates specifically to social welfare. There is nothing we can do. I would love to be able to walk down to my local employment office, say that I would like to find a job and ask what the office could do for me but I cannot. It is all for the benefit of the company.
Regarding the deferral of sanctions, specifically on the ground, it is true that the Department applies the sanctions. It is the organisation that physically puts the stamp on the seal and tells the person he or she has been sanctioned. It actually comes directly from the two companies. Under the section on sanctions in the tender document, it is outlined in detail and involves the email that is sent, what is written, what level of sanction exists and how long it will be applied for. Once the Department gets that email, the sanction is automatic - no "ifs", "ands" or "buts". It has been proven in my case when it was before the High Court. I have probably dealt with 60 or 70 cases, all of which involve the same issue. One of the worst things about it is that a person will never see what that email says. It is hidden from the person at all times. When the person goes to the appeals office, the companies do not have to attend. They are the ones making the claim against the person but the person does not have any evidence of the claim - just the Department saying that the person has failed to engage because it has received reports that the person has failed to engage. Once the company says it, that is it and the person is sanctioned. The Department takes it at face value. The Oireachtas Library and Research Service report from 2015 warned about this in the same month in which the programme went live. It stated that the belief in the companies would outweigh belief in the people. This was warned well in advance of the programme's creation yet nobody paid attention to it. There is no oversight or governance and there are no proper records because of arguments about privacy and confidentiality.
Regarding the contract, the PPP is defined in the tender contract as a plan to help people back into employment, which is fine. I have my own PPP, which was submitted in court, with me. Most of it is fine. It is meant to outline my skills. The problem really arises with the last pages of the PPP. They turn the PPP from a plan to get somebody back into employment into a contract. It states three to four specific terms very clearly. If the person does not agree with the company, it will sanction that person. It states that if the person does not provide the company with information, it will prosecute him or her. I never know if private companies can prosecute someone for not sharing personal information but according to the agreement a person signs with Turas Nua, he or she can be prosecuted if he or she does not share his or her information with the company. The State will argue that this is not a contract. The State has argued in court that it was a contract. I have tonnes of records and audio recordings from people who have been in meetings and all of them contain the same thing, namely, the person must sign the contract or he or she will be sanctioned. The contract term did not come from me or any other record. It actually came from the Department.
While most people may not realise this, I check the records. The State held joint information sessions on the JobPath programme on two specific dates and I have outlined these in my timeline. The first was on 26 July 2013 when the then Department of Social Protection held two information sessions. I provided the committee with a list of all those who attended that meeting. The second, on 7 November 2013, was a joint information session by the Department of Social Protection and Enterprise Ireland. I have provided the presentation to the committee. At that meeting, Enterprise Ireland clearly told the companies they were to contract people in two separate ways. It was, therefore, the Department that defined this as a contract. If people agree to the terms of the contract, their rights are gone and they no longer have a choice about what career or educational course to enter. That choice is made by someone else to make profits. People must work for someone else's profit and for no benefit to themselves.
Ms Catherine Greene:
Deputy Brady was interested in what happened to people with whom Kildare ETB was working and who were then taken off our books. We had so many of these people, it was tragic. People who are familiar with the adult education system will know that we have some wonderful full-time and part-time programmes. Our voluntary training opportunities scheme offers those who have been unemployed for more than six months two years of full-time education to rebuild up to a QQI level 5 skill or sometimes level 6, depending on ability. That is a fantastic opportunity. We also offer part-time programmes which suit other people who may be back in work and are seeking to upskill.
I do not have a figure to hand for the number of people taken off the programme but it is available on our database. Large numbers of people were taken off the programme. The Intreo case officers tried to prevent people from being "turas nuaed", as they described it. They tried to ensure we could get them in time to be able to place them on a programme. In the case of the client I mentioned, I wanted him to go on a full-time programme but he had such a bad experience of education and his skills were so low that he did not have confidence. It was difficult enough to get him to agree to my part-time programme, which was perfect for him as it offered a mix of practical skills, including basic information technology, and improving communications skills. If he had taken the full-time programme, he would not have been "turas nuaed", so to speak. However, he did not understand the position, as many people do not understand it because they are so honest. These are people who are unemployed or who have just been made unemployed and are often vulnerable.
I refer to a question raised by Deputy Bríd Smith. We work with people who are on sickness benefits and people who have been sick for a very long time. Some of my clients have worked in these services and have been so run down by their experience that they are now out sick. We also work with many people who are not in receipt of payments to return them to employment through education.
To return to the people who have been "turas nuaed", the number was especially large in 2015 and 2016. We noticed a considerable change in what is happening this year, which frightens us even more. The client I referred to was not brought back to me but returned to Turas Nua yet again. Now, as he says, all he must do is go for a chat. It is very important for the companies that he sign in each time he does so because it enables them to get their money. However, he is not being asked to do anything. He is such a shy man and is so afraid that it suits him to have to go into the office in town once a month. What a ridiculous wasted opportunity to give him a chance of having a quality of life at the age of almost 64 years.
Several of our clients are working with but not engaging with Turas Nua. An example that very much upsets me involves a young man for whom I sought an educational assessment. He was with Turas Nua but did not engage with the company, although the staff member in Turas Nua working with him has been good and has tried to get him back. He has not attended meetings and has been sanctioned as a result. I am concerned that he is self-medicating for what he considers to be depression and other issues. He he is now off our books and everyone else's books. He is lost to society. That is happening over and over and it is a tragedy.
To answer the Deputy's wider question, there is work to be done by the local employment service. It was doing a very good job and we were working very closely with our partners in the Intreo service with which we do not have any difficulty. Intreo staff cannot speak out because we are all public servants in that sense. I am here speaking as the chair of the Adult Education Guidance Association of Ireland. Intreo staff do not support what is happening to the clients. The Department's Intreo cases officers know these people need education and training if they are to get jobs and would like to help them access such opportunities but cannot do so. I hope this programme will not continue for a further two years.
We were asked for our general vision. Deputy Thomas Byrne, who we met recently, told us he was reading about deskilling populations in America. This project is a deskilling. It is a contradiction of Government policy. The national skills strategy is the central strategy pursued by the Departments of Education and Skills and Business, Enterprise and Innovation with the support of IBEC and others. It aims to upskill people to the highest level possible. Everyone is on board with the strategy on which a bulletin was produced recently. Professor Brian MacCraith of Dublin City University is very good on the issue of artificial intelligence and a recent newspaper article cited the Taoiseach on the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs. The need for upskilling is very well known. Professor MacCraith argues that people need highly transferable skills, for example, customer service skills and emotional intelligence, which require a great deal of confidence to use. People learn to use emotional intelligence by building up confidence, engaging in education and acquiring qualifications. This provides people with transferable skills that they may use anywhere. As Professor MacCraith has said, for the new world order and for the new jobs that we do not even know exist, the qualities we need are emotional intelligence and empathy. However, the JobPath project takes people and keeps them in very low-skilled jobs.
I will give another example of a woman who stayed on the programme for one year. She wanted to come off the programme and hated the job she was in. She would ring me from the toilet at a startup company. She stayed the year because otherwise she would lose her rights and entitlements and would be unable to pay her rent. She was a wonderful person with some challenges who was doing this all on her own. On the day the scheme finished, she was made redundant. The idea was that she would be kept on in the job. She had a degree and during that year, I was about to get her on to a childcare programme. These are the types of tragedies taking place.
Our vision is that there would be joined-up thinking. My opening statement referred to the fragmented approach. The State educates us to a high level to deliver a very good service. The Intreo protocol with the Department of Employment and Social Protection was awarded to us, yet this project completely ignored it. I ask that the committee push for the review of guidance which was due last September and has been delayed. This would deliver the further education guidance strategy across all services. If there are highly skilled people working in Turas Nua who wish to join us or the local employment service, the service should be amalgamated so that there is a properly run, integrated further education training and guidance service for the country for the future. We are in relatively good times, but I have lived through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and have been through every recession in that period. My career was affected but I had some career resilience because I have good educational skills on which I could work. I have gone up, down and across the learning axis. I have been awarded a level 5 qualification in early childcare. My husband, who is a solicitor, lost his business in the crash. I am very proud of him. The rule has been changed but he was self-employed so he had to pay for training and became a carer. He has had the most satisfying period until he recently became ill. That is what is happening. We need to be able to go up, down and across the axis of learning. One cannot shove people into a progression route. That vision is possible. We have the people to deliver it and we have clients who desperately need the support and opportunities we can create.
Dr. Ray Griffin:
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is over 70 years old. More than any other Department, it has held us together as a society, often through tough times. We have enormous respect for the Department. The forming of that Department and its considerable achievements over its life in dealing with poverty and building social cohesion are a substantial political achievement that for each generation needs to be renewed against strong opposition. That is an achievement made in Leinster House.
We have a world-class system of social protection in many ways. It was the envy of many other countries until recently when we started photocopying failing models' homework and replicating them unsympathetically here. We need to get back to a human-capital-centric approach. That is the approach which brought us to full employment. When we are at international conferences, we are told we are one of the few countries which experiences full employment from time to time. We have proved Irish people are not workshy. We have gotten our long-term unemployment rates down to negligible levels. That demonstrates that the ideology that people are workshy and we need to work them over is not the problem. The problems of our labour market are the problems of our economy, which is about industrial policy and the creation of jobs. We need to get back to our core values in this area which are held by most of the people working in the system who we have encountered in our research.
Research by Dr. Rod Hick of the University of Cardiff suggests the policy choices made here are Irish policy choices. They are encoded in the deal we cut. It was on the Irish side that the aspiration for this form of activation came. It was not mandated. We have a policy choice again, especially as we crest back into an era of near full employment. The core target of JobPath, namely, long-term worklessness, is usually and more efficiently improved by a community-based response. Such a response would focus on particular communities which experience unemployment and particular drivers of their unemployment, as well as geographic blackspots. They are long-term developmental drivers with community activities. There is a principle of community development which is nothing for us without us. The JobPath scheme is being done to people, not with people. In our research, all the 121 unemployed people to whom we have talked, attempted to navigate their way out of unemployment and were looking for help. They existed in their own personal labour market, not the broad labour market. They had specific geographic and educational restrictions, as well as aspirations, that they were trying to fulfil through the labour market. They need to be supported in a meaningful and human-capital-centric way.
It is our sense, which has been relayed to us by many professional insiders in the Department, both at office and policy level, that much of what is being done would not survive judicial scrutiny. This relies on the practical reality that unemployed people do not have access to our courts. Sanctioning is against the principle of natural justice. The sanctioners are judge, jury and executioner. There is no sense of proportionality. The natural justice cycle of clear, unambiguous notice, as well as formal warning, representation advocacy and appeal are not intact. The level of oversight and transparency is a disgrace. Little bits of information are figured out through parliamentary questions. If they were proud of this system, it would be open to scrutiny and reporting. We know from our county-by-county data that it does not appear that they work to a consistent standard. What really delivers this is the high level of appeals which are successful. If they worked to a consistent standard, there would not be that level of successful appealing.
Another concern is that the case officers working in JobPath are not appropriate individuals to work with a vulnerable population. Typically, they are on short-term contracts because the JobPath contract is for only four years. Clearly, they cannot be employed for a longer timeframe. They are paid for a poorly thought-out system that is called a performance model but in reality is more of a luck-based one. Essentially, if one is in a highly liquid labour market like Dublin, one has a good chance of placing people in any job. However if one is in Mayo, Kerry or Wexford, one can forget about it. Typically, the kind of people who are case officers are business and marketing graduates usually with an emphasis on sales experience. While JobPath has doubled the number of case workers, this is done without reference to their capability character of contract situations. We have a fear that this opens the State up to liability downstream.
Our sense is that JobPath does not work. It damages users at the point of use and in the long term. It damages everybody in the labour market. If one thinks about the massaging of CVs, companies will no longer trust these because they suspect they have not been authentically written. One cannot hoodwink employers through an office of the State. Our sense is that the use of outsource providers takes those with a public service ethos out of the loop and, thereby, reduces standards. It is expensive upfront. Based on our concerns about judicial scrutiny, there may be downstream liabilities to it.
Dr. Tom Boland:
The issue of the Traveller who had his name changed was brought up by several Deputies. Those data are protected by the Waterford Institute of Technology research ethics board and we are not in a position to share it in a straightforward way. We publish reports and books which have anonymised data which deals with these matters in brief. We have submitted several papers to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Minister. We will hopefully produce more in the future. It is important confidentiality is respected in this case. Basically what happened was that the man was attempting to co-operate. Then somebody told him this was his CV. It was changed online more or less in front of him and submitted. They took over the whole process for him. He had no agency whatsoever. They just did it to him without his consent.
Despite all the talk, JobPath is not really payment by performance or outcome. What is performing is not the JobPath provider but the Irish economy. If the economy performs, people get better jobs. One can tell from the quantitative data, even though there is an initial bounce of people making commencements of employment, 25% which is higher than that without JobPath, these are people who do not stay in employment for any longer time. The negative effects of using the stick with the threat of sanctions will have negative effects in the long term. It only acts as a sort of an intimidating middleman which makes sure people apply for whatever jobs are going. It is not intervening in a natural market but creating a market. It is what we call market coaxing. It forces people to enter the market and apply for jobs below what makes sense economically or personally for them. It is a significant problem.
We have talked a great deal about what we want and come back to the fact that activation is an OECD and EU-wide policy. For decades the Irish system was criticised for being too passive, which, to an extent, was a misunderstanding. We were active, in that we provided training and back to education supports. This conditionality was missing. As several people have suggested and in replying to Senator Higgins, a system of work first does not work. Human capital building, educational opportunities and training, in terms of whatever people choose, do work. A system will be designed to follow up with activation of some form. The question is what form that activation should take. It is clear from what we have heard that it needs to be professionally run and focused on training and so forth, but we need to think about it realistically. Even if they are properly administered legally, backed up and passed by the Oireachtas, with proper oversight by the Attorney General, sanctions are and were a part of the welfare regime, except that they were a nuclear option in that a person's entitlements were taken away entirely. We now have smaller sanctions that can be applied with due caution. We need to look at how they are applied. We will not remove them entirely because then there would no stick whatsoever, but we need to look at how we apply them. They need to be signposted clearly. We must identify things that are compulsory such as attendance at meetings, but as far as possible everything can be optional. There should be a way to include proportionality such as leniency for a first offence or a warning. In France, there is a three refusal system. I have talked to people in Brittany and their system appears to be that someone can refuse three jobs before he or she can be sanctioned. They are regulated properly to ensure a job is suitable for the individual concerned. We could do this. We can photocopy a better policy than the UK policy. A reoriented and changed welfare system which would be trumpeted in some way must undo a lot of the damage done to the economy by low wages and precarious work and also restore people's faith that someone will be helped and not subject to caprice. The rules must be clear and explained. Everyone should be given a chance and there should be a generous interpretation. We need to renew the sense that social welfare is a safety net that can be relied on and that the regime builds cohesion and a better economy, with decent work for people and an expectation that, if one falls on hard times, there will be solidarity, that the system will help and that the State will offer support.
I have a few observations and questions that stem from the answers given. I was struck by the comment made by Dr. Boland in his concluding remarks that JobPath obviously did not work, that it damaged users and everyone in the workforce and that there could be liabilities downstream. That was a huge statement to make. I have said this is an investigation in the making and that we will come back to this issue because of the vast amounts of money involved and the High Court cases which stem from JobPath. That is only the beginning.
I want to touch on the issue of sanctions. This ties in with the need to get back to core values. Oversight and accountability are important, but the problem many others and I have is the perception that sanctions are imposed by Intreo officers. I know many fantastic people with real, core values who are working within Intreo offices and trying to stop people from getting into Turas Nua and who were opposed to privatisation from the outset. However, it was imposed without their input or consultation.
A paragraph in the document from WIT states:
While officially sanctioning decisions are made only by the Intreo office, in practice, in the experience of jobseekers, the recommendation of a sanction by a JobPath provider was a fait accompli. In other research where we have spoken to counter staff and case officers in welfare offices, the JobPath providers are described as deciding on sanctions.
That is very important because the Minister has said it is the decision of Intreo officers, yet all of the evidence I have and the evidence given here is that the decision taken depends on the nature of the email sent.
Either Mr. Rudd or Mr. Fagan mentioned the contracts and rolling sanctions. Whoever it was, reference was made to the fact that in the contract sanctions could only be imposed for up to nine weeks before the jobseeker had to be put back on benefit payments. Could United People send the relevant section to us?
In her initial contribution Ms Green spoke about PEX 1 and people who had been unemployed for three months and how critical it was to get them involved and make them more employable. We know that when JobPath was rolled out initially, its purpose was to have "an approach to employment activation which caters mainly for people who are long-term unemployed (over 12 months)". However, it has deviated completely from it. I am encountering increasing numbers of people who are short-term unemployed, for days or weeks, who have been referred to JobPath. That is an admission that the policy has failed. By virtue of the nature of the contract, JobPath is a monster which has to be fed continuously. It would be very useful for the committee if there was more evidence because time and again the Minister has said Jobpath is only for the long-term unemployed, but more and more we are seeing people who are short-term unemployed being fed into JobPath. This is about the private model, not the individual. Individuals who are short-term unemployed are being fed into it and it is easier because they are gaining employment and feeding the private companies the bonus that thereby accrues.
We need to conclude. If the delegates or committee members have a response, it will have to be submitted in writing. I want to be clear with the delegates. A number of the issues which have been raised and some of the points made by Deputy Brady will form part of the consultative process when we are compiling the report. If the delegates wish to comment in response to a number of the questions raised, will they, please, forward their responses? As there is block voting in the Dáil, the meeting is due to conclude.
Second and more important, this is the final set of delegates in this module of our work. I make this comment to all delegates at all meetings. If there is something a delegate, having reflected on it afterwards, to which he or she would like to add, he or she should, please, feel free to correspond with the committee. I say this because shortly we will start to draft a report based on the hearings. As I said, this is the final group of delegates.
On my own behalf and that of the committee, I thank Mr. Rudd, Mr. Fagan, Ms Green, Dr. Griffin and Dr. Boland for their attendance. I also thank them for their opening statements and supporting documentation. The documents from Mr. Rudd and Mr. Fagan only arrived last night and will be circulated to committee members long in advance of drafting the report. I make the point clearly that committee members did not have an opportunity to see them before the meeting.