Tuesday, 5 February 2019
JobPath Programme: Motion [Private Members]
Last September, thejournal.iereported that 11,000 jobseekers were forced to do the same programme twice. From reading the Minister of State's script this evening, that figure seems to have risen to more than 21,000. I assure the Minister of State, from speaking to people since I was elected to this House in 2016, that one of the most hated schemes ever introduced by a Government was JobPath. When asked about the scheme by constituents, I always said I would make representations about it as I was genuinely worried about the state of mind of some of them. People were being asked to travel 20 miles or 30 miles out of their way without transport being available. Public transport is not available in many areas and some people on the JobPath scheme could not get to work.
When they approached me, they always asked me not to make a complaint because they were afraid that it might be put down as a mark against them.
I have utter intolerance for the scheme and fully support Deputy Brady and Sinn Féin in tabling the motion. Since JobPath was introduced in 2015 by the former Fine Gael-Labour Party Government, which I accept may have been a genuine effort at the time to do something, many Deputies who were then Members of the House, as well as those elected in 2016, have on numerous occasions stated that the scheme was not working. I know from many of the people I represent that they despise the scheme. The amount that two private firms are given to implement the scheme is appalling. If I am not mistaken, it is approximately €160 million.
There were fine FÁS schemes, Tús schemes, CLÁR schemes in the country, although I acknowledge there were and are shortcomings. I urge the Government to scrap JobPath, revisit those community-based schemes and put the money back into them. A guy or lassie in the local village might be asked under JobPath to travel 20 or 30 miles without transport to somewhere, but if he or she could go on a local community FÁS scheme close to home, would that not make perfect sense?
Fianna Fáil has recognised that full employment is the optimum, and it sometimes recognised that during the engagement period with the JobPath service, but this service is not the way to go. After more than three years, it is time to scrap it, bin it and, as other Deputies have said, treat people with respect. I agree with other contributors to the debate. The one-size-fits-all approach that the Government takes at times is not the way to treat human beings. Not everyone who leaves JobPath does not want to work. In many cases, there are genuine reasons. There must be a better way for people.
My party and I will fully support the motion. I hope the Government parties will see sense and withdraw its amendment because it is turning more and more people against them. Many people just do not fit into certain categories, and elected representatives and Governments must acknowledge that. In this case, however, the Government does not acknowledge that the scheme is a fiasco. It is an unacceptable disaster that treats many people in society in a negative and derogatory way.
The Minister of State is a reasonable man. In my dealings with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the officials who work there are genuine and helpful, as I had intended to say when the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, was present. I know that from dealing with them every day, as do my staff. Nevertheless, we must send a clear message to scrap the scheme. It is not workable or acceptable, and I commend Deputy Brady on his motion. I am delighted that my party and I will support the motion.