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Over 200,000 people have been through JobPath, but only 11,000 have held down jobs for over a year

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty says the government has a legally binding contract with the operators that it must honour.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty says the government has a legally binding contract with the operators that it must honour.
Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty says the government has a legally binding contract with the operators that it must honour.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

ONLY 11,334 PEOPLE out of 206,000 who have taken part in JobPath sustained employment for over 12 months.

However, despite the figures, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty states the scheme is working. 

During a debate on 6 February on a motion which called for the end of referrals to the programme, the minister said:

“Almost 206,000 people have engaged with the JobPath service, of whom approximately 48,000 are still engaged.”

However, correspondence between the department and Sinn Féin’s John Brady gives a breakdown of the figures, showing that only 11,334 jobs out of 206,000 were sustained in employment exceeding 12 months.

JobPath is an employment activation service provided to people who have been on the live register for more than 12 months and are trying to secure and sustain full-time paid employment or self-employment.

The two private companies employed by the State, Turas Nua and Seetec, to operate the scheme have received €75.7 million and €73.3 million respectively to carry out its work.

The two contractors are paid to work with both the jobseeker and employers to identify employment opportunities.

They receive payments when someone who has taken part in the scheme gains proven employment.

Payments 

Sustainment payments are also to be made to the companies over the course of a year in respect of each person who secures employment having engaged in the JobPath process.

TheJournal.ie revealed last year that the private companies contracted by the State to run the scheme are entitled to €3,718 for every jobseeker that gains sustained employment for one year through the JobPath scheme. 

Those that refuse to engage with the scheme can have their social welfare reduced or cut off. In the last number of months, criticism has been levelled at the private companies that operate the scheme, with politicians highlighting a number of issues. 

Brady said the figures are “quite startling” stating that the minister was “misleading” in her speech earlier this month.

He asked her yesterday if she still stood over her assertion that the JobPath scheme is the most successive labour activation scheme in this State.

“How can she conclude that the programme has been successful given that not even close to half of those 41,000 full-time jobs have been sustained in employment for over a year?” Brady told the Dáil yesterday.

Figures released through a parliamentary question show the full breakdown of job success through JobPath.

Of the number of job starts which occurred over 13 weeks ago, there were 38,410. However, only 27,653 of those sustained employment for 13 weeks.

There were 33,886 job starts over 26 weeks ago, but there was a fall off of 13,486 in the number of people staying in those jobs.

Of the jobs taken up over 39 weeks ago, there was 29,409, but only 15,254 sustained the work for 39 weeks.

As stated above, 24,873 jobs were taken up over 52 weeks ago, but only 11,334 stayed in those jobs for over a year.

Model taken from the UK

The Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection was previously told that it was “poor practice” to liftst the JobPath model from the UK without making any changes or adaptations for working with the Irish public”. 

The JobPath model was based on the model being used by the G4S recruitment company in the UK, which was criticised by the UK Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.  

Cameron visits Seetec Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron meeting people at Seetec in east London in 2011. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

While the minister said she “noted” the views of the House when it voted to end the referrals to the JobPath scheme, she said the position of the government remains unchanged.

Legally binding

“My Department has entered into legally binding agreements with the JobPath providers and the government will honour these contractual commitments… I am satisfied that the proper course of action is to continue with the service in order to support our long-term unemployed jobseekers,” she said, adding: 

What I cannot ignore are the contractual obligations the State has with two companies to provide very successful outcomes for in excess of 200,000 people who have gone through their doors…I also stated in the House previously that the termination of the contracts or a step away from any of the terms of contract would leave the State potentially exposed to millions of euros, but the Deputy’s party has a magic cheque book, so that does not bother him. It also does not bother him that this is actually working.

However, Brady pointed out to the minister that there have been only 11,344 jobs delivered.

The people are getting work, replied the minister, stating that “some 48,000 people have got work in the past number of years”. 

“It doesn’t matter how many have gone through, there have only been 11,344 jobs,” repeated Brady.

She said there is a high level of customer satisfaction and very low levels of complaints, stating that complaints that she has heard in the Dáil from TDs are merely anecdotal. 

Numerous TDs from all parties have raised complaints about the scheme that have been raised with them at their constituency offices. One such complaint referred to a man on the JobPath scheme who had his CV amended against his wishes to conceal his ethnicity.

Doherty added that her department will shortly publish the results of an econometric evaluation of the service which will further indicate that the outcomes for participating jobseekers, both in terms of employment and earnings, are better than those of non-participants. 

During the debate, Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath dismissed the minister’s comments that there were only a few complaints stating that he has received “countless complaints” about the service. The minister accused McGrath of “bullying” which she said she would not tolerate. 

Complaints

Figures released to TheJournal.ie show that to date over 206,000 long-term unemployed clients have been referred to JobPath and there have been 836 complaints to the operators. 

The total number of requests the department has received to review the outcomes of complaints about the JobPath service from 2017 to 5 February 2019 is 11 – six for the operator Turas Nua, and five for the other operator Seetec. 

The total number of complaints the department has received about Seetec and Turas Nua from 2017 to 5 February 2019 is  72 complaints – 35 for Turas Nua, and 37 for Seetec.

The department said that in the event that a client has made a complaint to the operator but is dissatisfied with the response, they may request that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection conduct a review. 

Clients may also refer a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman for review if the complaints processes have been exhausted, however the minister told the Dáil that this has never occurred. 

The Office of the Ombudsman said it has received complaints in relation to job activation schemes, however there is no classification to mark them as such.

Any complaints received in relation to the schemes would only be recorded as a social protection complaint.

The only data available shows that in 2017  there were four complaints (one was upheld, while three were discontinued). In 2018, there were five complaints (one is still open, one was an enquiry only, and three were discontinued).

Another controversy over one of the JobPath operators has also surfaced this week with Turas Nua being caught up in the administration of UK contractor Working Links, which owns 50% of the Irish entity.

A statement from the Department of Social Protection to TheJournal.ie says: 

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has a contract in place with Turas Nua, and not with Working Links.Officials in this Department are aware of developments in relation to Working Links and have received assurances from Turas Nua that the JobPath contracts will continue to operate as agreed.

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