Tuesday, 17 November 2015
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
61. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the reason persons placed on the JobPath programme are prohibited and excluded from taking part in other job activation schemes such as community employment schemes, part-time job incentive schemes, jobs clubs and local employment services and from participating in all other forms of training other than that supplied by private companies such as Seetac and Turas Nua. [40185/15]
This question arises from the need for clarification in respect of the company or companies granted the contract for dealing with long-term jobseekers, the contract known as JobPath. Do those involved understand fully the implications of being landed with a JobPath interview?
I should first note that we have reached another milestone today in getting people back to work. There are now 1.983 million people at work and the unemployment rate has fallen below 9% to 8.9%. As a consequence of the very significant increase in the number of people at work, we now have more tax revenue and greater capacity to invest, as announced, in primary and secondary schools across the country.
JobPath is a new approach to employment activation which is supporting people who are long-term unemployed. The long-term unemployment rate today has fallen to 5%. We have made very good progress for those most distant from the labour market in securing and sustaining full-time paid employment. Participants in JobPath will receive intensive individual supports to help them to address barriers to employment and assist them in finding jobs.
Each person is assigned to a personal adviser who will assess his or her skills, experience, challenges and work goals. A personal progression plan will be drawn up that will include a schedule of activities, actions and job-focused targets. Participants are also provided with a range of training and development supports, including online modules, career advice, curriculum vitae, CV, preparation and interview skills. They will spend a year on JobPath and if they are placed in a job, they will continue to receive support for at least three months and up to 12 months while in employment.
JobPath is one of the range of activation supports, including schemes such as community employment, CE, and Tús, which cater for long-term unemployed jobseekers. In general - JobPath is not an exception - it is not possible for clients to participate in two separate schemes at the same time. In addition, given the need to manage the allocation of places effectively, the Department does not facilitate or encourage jobseekers to leave one scheme early in order to take up a place on another. This approach is particularly relevant in the case of JobPath, whereby providers are paid on the basis of outcomes. It is important that service providers have the opportunity and time to achieve the outcome, which is to help the jobseeker to secure and sustain full-time employment. However, jobseekers can be referred to relevant education, training modules and the like.
The Minister's opening gambit contradicts the logic behind the JobPath scheme. She has already shown that people will find work by themselves or with the help of Intreo offices and the job activation schemes already in place without introducing this scheme. However, a debate on JobPath is for another day. The Minister's statement confirms some of what I believe is happening. Some people have been waiting for places on some of the schemes I mentioned in my question such as the community employment and job incentive schemes or for opportunities that have been flagged with them by local employment services. The Minister is saying if they are placed on JobPath in the meantime, they will be foregoing such opportunities. There are sometimes cases where people wish to access a scheme that will give them a level 5 qualification in child care, for example. This type of community employment scheme is available. Is it possible for Turas Nua or Seetac to refer people to it, if that is the best career path for them, or home help or some of the other schemes that have opportunities available for people to pursue?
It is important to note that jobseekers can be referred to relevant employment focused further education and training opportunities provided under the auspices of education and training boards, ETBs, and others while on JobPath. In such cases the engagement period with JobPath will be adjusted. In other words, in a situation where people might be undertaking FETAC level 4, 5 or 6 courses, that would be factored into the equation. However, if somebody is on JobPath, it is an intensive year to help him or her to find a job. The start of it is making a career progression plan by working with the adviser and the local Intreo office and then working on skills such as CV preparation and certain other skills that they might need to improve to be able to avail of employment. The scheme has already started on a limited basis and the results so far are very promising. I have met some of the people involved. The objective is to give everybody across the range of supports the Department offers an opportunity to get back into or find work in the first place.
It may deliver results in some cases but, as I argued, it is not anything that could be delivered through the public service or through the changes the Minister brought about in the Intreo offices. All of what the Minister described sounds good but the experience to date is that people referred to JobPath cannot access a community employment scheme and, even if it is to their liking or part of a beneficial career path for them, they are being discouraged by JobPath officials. Either there is a communication problem or the officials are not aware of all of the angles through which they can refer people back to the progression or activation measures or to education, given some of the activation measures have a component educational part. That is why I particularly mentioned the CE schemes that have education tied to them as part of the person's activation scheme and the progression path the person builds up, which starts with Intreo.
As the Deputy knows, we have completely reorganised the provision of the training and education in regard to the areas referred to, particularly child care. This is in order to provide a qualification opportunity for everybody who goes into child care, whether that is at level 4, level 5 or, as is increasingly demanded, level 6. If such an individual was long-term unemployed and his or her interest was very much as the Deputy suggests, namely, to go into personal care, whether child care or elder care, obviously, the person would have to get qualifications to work in that field. Therefore, the schemes aim to provide a structure, for example, working in a community-based crèche alongside training and education.
I would anticipate that the person the Deputy is talking about would discuss this with his or her local Intreo case officer and seek to get a place. However, there are also people who have no particular idea what it is they would like to do. It may be they have had spells of employment and then unemployment, given Job Path is for people who are more than one year unemployed. What we must do is increase employment opportunities, which is what JobPath is going to do for us.