Tuesday, 5 February 2019
JobPath Programme: Motion [Private Members]
During the recession, tens of thousands of people lost their jobs and found themselves relying on social welfare until they found new employment. Now, according to the Government, the economy is booming and unemployment is falling, so we need to ask why these activation schemes continue to be necessary, especially if there is supposed to be a job for anybody who needs one. Sinn Féin supports all efforts to help people get back to work, whether it is through retraining, aiding job searches or engagement with community employment and similar schemes.
This motion specifically relates to JobPath, and the scheme's operation raises serious questions about how we treat people in the State and help them get back to work. It also raises serious questions around transparency, value for money and outcomes for jobseekers. We need more information on who has been targeted by this scheme. The majority of those who have encountered this scheme have reported harassment and feeling bullied or intimidated. It has not been a positive experience by any description. Instead of JobPath, the Department would be better off offering encouragement and assistance to the long-term unemployed so they can access the workplace. They need support to build their skill set and confidence.
The privatisation of work activation schemes is typical of Fine Gael policy and it does not represent good practice for jobseekers; it certainly does not represent good value for the State. The big winners here are Turas Nua and Seetec. As many Deputies have noted, these companies have received more than €150 million of taxpayers' money between them but there is a lack of transparency around much of the reward they receive for each participant. Only 9% of the people on the scheme have secured employment for at least one year, demonstrating JobPath's poor value for money. The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, has argued JobPath is the most successful job activation scheme in the history of the State, which demonstrates how detached she is from the reality. I disagree with her and see JobPath as nothing more than a racket.
I urge all parties to support this motion as we need to end JobPath and invest in community-based employment activation schemes, community employment schemes, jobs clubs, Tús, adult guidance services and other initiatives. Such schemes put jobseekers first rather than private business. Community employment schemes represent a good activation model and such schemes benefit both the participant and the local community. The Government probably is not interested as there is no money-making opportunity for private companies in such schemes. We need to ensure people can be supported and they find engagement with good quality and sustainable work. JobPath achieves none of those goals.