Tuesday, 5 February 2019
JobPath Programme: Motion [Private Members]
That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:— JobPath was set up by Fine Gael and the Labour Party in July 2015, with the aim of assisting the long-term unemployed to secure and sustain employment;
— contracts to deliver JobPath on behalf of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection were signed with two private companies – Turas Nua and Seetec;
— between July 2015 and January 2019 some 205,000 people have engaged with either Turas Nua or Seetec following referral by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection;
— as of January 2019, over 21,000 people had been referred to JobPath for a second time having previously completed the scheme in full;
— as of November 2018, Turas Nua and Seetec had received €149 million of taxpayers’ money between them;
— as of November 2018, out of the 190,000 people referred to JobPath at that stage, just nine per cent (i.e. 17,100 people) had secured employment which had been sustained for at least one year, at a cost of €3,718 per person;
— where an individual is referred to JobPath for a second time, Turas Nua and Seetec received double payments; and
— JobPath has engaged with 24,185 people (as of October 2018) who are working part-time and also with people who have been referred to another job activation scheme;
further notes that:
— the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection has hailed JobPath as the most successful job activation scheme in the history of the State, however, the employment outcomes for JobPath do not reflect this claim;
— other job activation schemes are suffering as a result of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s preference to refer people to JobPath over all other community-based schemes;
— referrals to the Local Employment Service are down across the State and thousands of vacancies in Community Employment schemes, which provide vital benefits to local communities, cannot be filled; and
— research recently presented to the Oireachtas Committee for Employment Affairs and Social Protection from Waterford Institute of Technology concluded that ‘they (participants) felt actively and capriciously patronised, cajoled, threatened, manipulated and bullied’; and
calls on the Government and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to:
— immediately cease all referrals to the JobPath service and end the mandatory nature of the scheme;
— end the contract with the JobPath providers as soon as possible without any extension;
— properly resource and expand existing job activation schemes which are community-based, including:— the Local Employment Service;— invest in the Back to Education Allowance scheme, Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme, and any other available training and education schemes;
— Adult Guidance Services;
— Community Employment;
— Rural Social Scheme;
— Tús; and
— Job Clubs;
— end the use of ‘payment by results’ models in job activation schemes;
— examine the significant international research on the consequences of sanctioning, including the short-term impacts, such as poverty, and the long-term impacts on health and well-being; and
— focus on an ‘individual first’ approach rather than the ‘work first’ approach pursued by JobPath, acknowledging that one size does not fit all and some jobseekers would benefit more from upskilling through apprenticeships, education, training and work experience rather than an ‘any job will do’ attitude.
I am delighted to bring this motion before the House in order to give us an opportunity to discuss and debate the much-discredited JobPath programme which was rolled out in 2015.
Turas Nua requested that he change his name on his CV so that he would not identify as a Traveller. This was done against his wishes.
Turas Nua applied for a job for her in a remote call centre, a one and a half hour drive each way with no bus service available. Despite her objection that she had no means of travelling to work there, she was advised to make friends and car pool. She was five months pregnant at the time. When she complained she was threatened with sanctions. Around this time she became homeless, staying on her parent's couch.
A qualified architect was forced to hound potential employers. When this failed, Turas Nua instructed her to dumb down her CV so that she could find other types of work.
These are just some of the experiences shared by JobPath participants with researchers from the Waterford Institute of Technology. They concluded that JobPath participants felt actively patronised, cajoled, threatened, manipulated and bullied, which is a far cry from the Minister's claim that JobPath is the most successful job activation scheme in the history of the State. In reality, JobPath providers are not helping and supporting unemployed people, as the Minister's amendment states. Our evidence suggests that staff at JobPath do not have the necessary skills or training. That company is simply making money on the backs of unemployed people.
It is not about the needs of the individual, but a work-first approach. As the Minister's predecessor, An Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, said, people must give up their ambition of a dream job and in essence take any job. When it comes to the privatisation agenda pursued by the Minister's Department, in terms of contracting out the service, the Minister consistently compares it with the local employment service, LES. It is true that the LES is contracted out, but the LES is not based on a payment by results model. That is what is at issue here. The Minister has completely overlooked this. To compare JobPath with the LES is highly insulting to the highly trained and qualified people working within the LES. Not only does the Department hand over an initial fee of €311 - which the Minister will refer to as a "small registration fee" - for every individual who signs up to JobPath, that money has been handed over twice in the case of over 21,000 people her Department has referred to JobPath twice. That is not a small amount, particularly when it is paid on the double. Turas Nua and Seetec must be laughing all the way to the bank with the €160 million they have been paid to run these schemes in their back pockets.
A total of €3,718 in taxpayers' money is handed over to Turas Nua and Seetec for every job sourced that lasts at least 52 weeks. That is €3,718 for every person per job. It is a ludicrous amount of money. JobPath providers are not engaging with individuals to help and support them, they are doing so simply to make money. They are private companies and their sole aim is to make a profit.
The amendment tabled by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the press release she issued earlier both state that 41,000 people have found full-time jobs. How long have they lasted in those jobs? How long have those jobs lasted for them? Have they lasted more than 13 weeks? Can the Minister provide a breakdown on the number of these jobs that have been sustained for more than one year? In November, the Secretary General of the Department informed the Committee of Public Accounts that out of the 190,000 referred at that stage, only 17,100 had sourced employment that lasted for at least one year. That represents a mere 9% of participants. The Minister consistently mentions the low level of complaints when praising the success of JobPath but fails to acknowledge that those referred to JobPath are threatened with cuts to their jobseeker's payments from the first communication they receive. Why would a person under constant threat of sanction or under the threat of losing the only source of income he has make a formal complaint to the Department? To date, over 14,000 JobPath participants have had a penalty rate applied. In many counties, the figures exceed 10%, 11% or 12%.
There are other job activation schemes that are community-based and reputable long-standing schemes. The Minister's amendment states that the funding and staffing for the local employment service offices have been maintained. Again, the Minister misses the actual issue. The number of referrals has not been maintained. The numbers are down throughout the State.
Those working in the local employment services could tell the Minister that supporting the motion would not mean that the long-term unemployed will suddenly miss out on the opportunity to source employment. Schemes run by the local employment service, adult guidance service, jobs clubs and community employment organisations are precisely the schemes that brought us to full employment during the Celtic tiger era, long before JobPath every came into existence. They were the success stories, but the Minister has bypassed them to line the pockets of Turas Nua and Seetec to the tune of over €160 million.
The motion is not about calling for JobPath to be cancelled; it is calling for an end to the referrals to JobPath and an end to the mandatory nature of the scheme. Why the Minister decided to release a press statement based on the cancellation or suspension of JobPath, which is mentioned nowhere in the motion, is completely beyond me. It begs the question as to whether she actually read the motion.
I look forward to the debate and to the contributions of Members on all sides. I hope we will get full support for the motion Sinn Féin has brought forward to deal with and do away with the much discredited JobPath programme.