Tuesday, 5 February 2019
JobPath Programme: Motion [Private Members]
Fianna Fáil is supporting this Sinn Féin motion on JobPath and I thank Deputy Brady for bringing it forward. It is timely. My party is, of course, in favour of measures that support bringing people back into employment. However, we recognise and are concerned that JobPath has been the subject of substantial and sustained criticism.
Over the past number of years, Fianna Fáil has sought to improve JobPath and highlight its serious misgivings about the scheme. Given the ongoing criticisms that have been levelled at JobPath and the fact the numbers participating in the labour market have increased substantially, it is now time to wind down the operation of this activation scheme.
One of the first issues I dealt with in relation to JobPath was the random selection approach to the person. Unfortunately, not everyone on jobseeker's allowance - a small number of people - is in a position to take up full-time employment. There may be a number of factors that prevent people from entering into or remaining part of the labour market. These factors may include: family breakdown, alcohol or substance misuse, health issues, including mental health, and literacy problems. I recently met a representative of the National Adult Literacy Agency, NALA, and I was astonished to hear that one in six adults finds it hard to read and understand a bus timetable or medicine instructions, for example. The high cost of childcare, the lack of adequate public transport and precarious work are also barriers that can prevent people from entering the labour market. Therefore, the one-size-fits-all approach to activation is not suitable to everyone's needs.
As a party, we also sought to improve the activation scheme as much as feasibly possible. For example, as Deputy O'Dea stated, last year we secured a change to the scheme whereby an individual could engage in a CE or Tús scheme while on JobPath.
The contribution to local communities of these CE schemes, including working with sports clubs, church groups, meals on wheels, the elderly, youth education support schemes, Tidy Towns and heritage projects cannot be underestimated.
It is unacceptable that any individual should have been placed in a situation such as one that was discussed recently in the committee. I believe that the time has come to wind down the scheme because we have a huge number of people now in work.