Tuesday, 5 February 2019
JobPath Programme: Motion [Private Members]
I thank my colleague, Deputy Brady, for bringing forward this important motion. Everyone of us is contacted by constituents, weekly or even more often, stressed or terrified because they have been forced by JobPath to go on courses that have no relation to what they want to do with their lives or what they had hoped to achieve with their lives.
The Minister of State lives in a constituency adjoining my own and he will understand. I wish the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, was present but she is not. Eight of the country's top ten unemployment black spots are in Limerick city and it is a national disgrace that this has not been challenged. If I thought for one second that JobPath had made any impact on unemployment in Limerick city, I would be jumping up and down in the Chamber demanding it be retained, but I am 100% sure it has had no impact on the statistic. Rather, it focuses on people who had good jobs for a number of years and, unfortunately, lost their jobs or people who wanted to apply for a community employment scheme but were not allowed. It also focuses, as was mentioned, on people with various issues such as childcare or on people in rural areas with a lack of access to transport who are brought to the same pointless meetings, week in, week out. One person's job had been helping other people find jobs, type up curricula vitae, CVs, and so on, but he was forced to learn how to write a CV. How ridiculous is that? If he had not done it, he would have been sanctioned, as the Minister of State will be aware.
The scheme is straight out of the Margaret Thatcher-Tory playbook, as the Government knows. It is not just Sinn Féin which is of the firm opinion that JobPath has utterly failed. People who lose their jobs and try to return to the workforce need help, support and guidance but, unfortunately, most are left wanting after their engagement with Turas Nua and Seetec.
I did not have to hear the presentation in the AV room earlier to realise how bad the situation was because I deal with the people involved daily or weekly. We heard from Dr. Tom Boland and Dr. Ray Griffin from the Waterford Un/Employment Research Collaborative at WIT, and they gave a damning account of the JobPath programme, describing it as an expensive construction of a negative experience. They outlined how the people they interviewed engaged with JobPath and signed up for jobs totally unsuited to their abilities, and that the private companies running the programme did not take account of family circumstances, such as having to care for relatives, and made threats to cut people's social welfare payments.
In my previous role on a council, I was involved in a partnership and the council was part of a good LES scheme. The Government could have funded that but as it took a leaf out of the Tory book; it wanted to fund private companies with more than €160 million, which is double the cost of the LES scheme.