Tuesday, 5 February 2019
JobPath Programme: Motion [Private Members]
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and I thank Deputy Brady for putting the motion down. As Deputy O'Dea indicated, Fianna Fáil will be supporting this motion.
As the Minister will be well aware, this issue has been on the agenda of the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection for quite a while. This debate is quite timely because the Minister indicated that an interdepartmental group is reviewing community employment, the Indecon report on LES and job clubs has recently been published and JobPath's natural run is coming to a conclusion.
In her opening statement, the Minister attributed much of the success in the reduction in unemployment to JobPath. No doubt JobPath had a role to play in it but the underlying cause was the growing economy. There were entrepreneurs in this country who took advantage of the opportunity of a rising economy and they created the jobs. JobPath may have had a role in facilitating some getting those jobs but we need to be clear it was the economic conditions of the country that created those jobs.
The Minister published many statistics but one of the points is missing. She talked about the number of people who have engaged with JobPath and those who were involved for so long, but nowhere has she indicated, which is in motion put down by Deputy Brady, how many people have maintained a job for a year or longer. That is not in the Government amendment. That is quite significant. We can use the statistics any way we want.
In the Government amendment, the Minister makes reference to the fact that the most decisive factor in individuals improving their economic circumstances and being lifted out of poverty is to secure employment. That is not enough. It is the type of employment and whether the employment is of a level sufficient that is decisive. With JobPath, the type of job those we have met got have not in many cases tied in with the level of skills and expertise they have. There is not that joined-up thinking. While JobPath has seen a significant number of people engage with it, according to the numbers the Minister has given in a quantitative way, the qualitative analysis of the types of jobs people have got has not been clear by any means.
There is no question that while it was being rolled out, JobPath had a negative impact on other schemes, such as community employment and LES, all of which were deprived of applicants. That is a fair comment to make. The Minister may or may not agree with it, but all those schemes found it more difficult because applicants were being diverted, by and large, to JobPath.
I will make one final point on LES. The Indecon report was published recently and it made a number of recommendations. One recommendation that should be looked at concerns the long-term unemployed. We need to look at geographic areas that have sustained long-term intergenerational unemployment. There is significant scope for LES to develop its services there and I note that the Indecon report talks about those programmes being funded on a multi-annual basis.