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JobPath scheme extended by one year to help with 'labour uncertainty' from Brexit

Controversy has overshadowed the scheme over the years due to complaints from users of the service.

Only 6% of people have held down a job for over a year on JobPath.
Only 6% of people have held down a job for over a year on JobPath.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

THE JOBPATH SCHEME is to be extended by 12 months, the Department of Social Protection has confirmed. 

The extension has been granted despite the Dáil voting to end referrals of jobseekers to the JobPath scheme earlier this year. 

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.

Two private companies employed by the State, Turas Nua and Seetec, to operate the scheme have received over €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.

Extended 

The JobPath employment service commenced in 2015. The contracts signed with the service providers set out that it was to run for six years.

Referrals of jobseekers was to take place for four years, with an additional ‘run off’ period of two years for those referred to still receive supports. 

Therefore, jobseeker referrals were due to cease on 31 December 2019.

However, the contract with Turas Nua and Seetec, included an option to extend the term of referrals for a period no greater than two years.

The department has now confirmed that it has made the decision to extend the JobPath scheme for a period of 12 months. 

In a reply to Sinn Féin’s Social Protection spokesperson, John Brady, the department states that one of the reasons for doing this is Brexit. 

Brexit 

“This extension is important as it will ensure that the Government retains the necessary labour activation capacity to deal with any labour market uncertainty that arises as a result of Brexit.”

In addition, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said the extension gives her department an opportunity to review all contracted public employment services and “to design and develop a comprehensive model that will incorporate various models of response and be fit for purpose for the Irish labour market from 2021 onwards”.

Having met with department officials during the summer to determine whether or not referrals to JobPath would cease at the end of 2019, Brady said it was clear to him that there was no sign of this happening.

He added: 

This news will be met with great anger by many people some of whom have participated in the JobPath scheme three and four times, at this stage. A Sinn Féin motion was passed in the Dáil earlier this year to immediately cease referrals to JobPath, this continues to go ignored by government and they are now pedaling Brexit as an excuse for this extension of referrals.

Controversy has overshadowed the scheme over the years due to complaints from users of the service. 

Earlier this year an Oireachtas committee was told that “a traveller was enrolled on a course that required reasonable levels of literacy despite having low levels of literacy and also had his CV amended against his wishes to conceal his ethnicity”.  

Other examples highlighted at the committee meeting included an aspiring architect being directed to reduce her expectations and accept other work at their local employment office. A pregnant woman was also directed to accept work at a call centre in a location some distance away which had no suitable transport options.

Bigger questions have been raised over the value-for-money of the scheme. 

Just 6% hold down jobs for over a year

TheJournal.ie reported in June that of the 226,851 people referred to the government’s JobPath service, only 14,617 (6.44%) held down a job for over a year. 

 The latest figures released show that in the four years that the scheme has been operational, the government has spent over €182 million on it.

They figures show that under the government initiative, 51,548 people commenced work, but over 101,303 people who were referred to JobPath in the last four years got nothing from the scheme.

JobPath figures for the last four years show that of the 51,548 people who commenced work under the programme, the majority only stayed in a job for a period of 13 weeks (31,186).

A total of 24,234 people sustained work for 26 weeks, while 18,808 sustained work for 39 weeks.

Just 14,617 people sustained work for 52 weeks.

Despite just over 14,000 people keeping down a job for a year under the scheme, the minister has defended the programme, stating:

JobPath has been and continues to be a successful service in providing a comprehensive and value for money activation service for the long-term unemployed.
On this basis, my Department triggered the extension provisions of the existing contracts with the JobPath providers and secured agreement on the extension of these contracts on existing terms and conditions for a further twelve months.

The minister said “this is not a renewal of the JobPath contracts, but the execution of the extension clauses of the existing contracts”.

Earlier this year, TDs were told that there are cheaper ways than JobPath to get people back to work. Referencing the Indecon report for 2018, Independent TD Thomas Pringle told the Dail that the cost of finding someone employment through Local Employment Services is a lot more favourable, and costs about €1,200 less money. 

Doherty said that in order design and develop an “appropriate contracted public employment service model” for the future, her department are hiring external consultants. She said the procurement process is currently underway.

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