Catherine Murphy raised concerns about JobPath in the Dáil this week. Leah Farrell

Bring JobPath fraud claims to me and I'll investigate, says minister

Catherine MurphyTD has raised serious concerns in the Dáil regarding the activation programme, JobPath.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL Protection Regina Doherty has sought further details of a case  in which an individual accused a company operating the State’s jobs activation programme of fraud.

During the week, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy raised serious concerns in the Dáil regarding the activation programme, JobPath, and in particular, Seetec Ltd, one of the companies contracted to run the programme.

Jobpath is an employment activation service provided to assist jobseekers on the live register to secure and sustain full-time paid employment or self-employment.

It’s understood the minister has written to Murphy seeking the details of the alleged case. Doherty told the Dáil that if any TD had claims of fraudulent behaviour, they should raise them with her department and she will investigate.

However, the minister also told the Dáil this week that she wants to be clear that there is no harassing of customers taking place.

Murphy told the Dáil earlier this week that Seetec Ltd has been the subject of a fraud investigation in the UK following its actions while contracted to the UK Department of Work and Pensions.

Highlighting one particular case, she told the chamber that a father of two who had some casual employment which was being supplemented by a payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

JobPath Scheme 

“In order to keep that payment, he was obliged to participate in the JobPath scheme, despite the fact that the nature of his casual work made him an unsuitable candidate, which was acknowledged by all sides at the time.

“As a result of the JobPath obligations, he lost the small amount of casual work he had and he became fully reliant on a social protection payment, which is the opposite of what the Taoiseach is trying to achieve,” said Murphy.

He claims he was repeatedly asked to sign documents verifying attendance at sessions he had not in fact attended and was threatened with his payment being cut off if he refused to sign.

Murphy told the Taoiseach that the man was refused a training course he wanted to do and instead was given one he had no interest in, but with the promise that there would be a job at the end of it.

However, she said there was no job at the end of it.

He was prohibited from accepting any other external offers of employment during the training time and threatened with sanctions if he accepted work outside of the JobPath scenario. Eventually he could not refuse work any longer and he took a job.

She said the man and his new employer became absolutely pestered by Seetec Ltd to fill in forms, stating that JobPath had actually secured the employment for him, which it had not.

“When he refused to do so he was cajoled, shouted at, threatened and harassed. The same happened to his employer, so much so that eventually the employer signed the forms,” she added.

This man came to see me because he felt he had to highlight what appears to be, to all intents and purposes, systematic fraud occurring under the auspices of a Government Department.

UK investigation 

She said the company has been accused of artificially inflating the number of jobs it claimed it was finding people in the UK. Murphy asked if  the department was aware of the very serious issues in the UK and the investigation of the UK Public Accounts Committee regarding Seetec before the JobPath contract was awarded.

ALL IRELAND BREXIT 400_90524867 Leo Varadkar and Regina Doherty Sam Boal Sam Boal

Noting a previous parliamentary replies from Labour’s Joan Burton, when she was the Minister for Social Protection, Murphy said the potential for inflating figures was taken into consideration from the then-minister.

While Doherty said she would investigate any claims made, she said “it is simply not true” to state that customers are being constantly harassed.

“People who are underemployed or unemployed long term – for longer than 12 months – are engaging with employment advisors to try and help them get the employment that they have registered an interest in. Anybody who is registered for a social welfare payment is declaring that they are looking for work. All JobPath is doing – in an exceptional way – is helping those people find jobs. That is all it is there to do,” she said.

“I want to be clear that there is no harassing of customers,” stating that the claims are “spurious” claims which attack what is probably the most successful employment activation programme ever run in this country.

The Taoiseach said JobPath has been a very successful programme and the quarterly satisfaction report shows very high satisfaction levels.

“I have absolutely no doubt that there are individuals who have bad experiences of these companies and I have absolutely no doubt that many of these complaints are genuine. Complaints are welcome and should be made,” he added.

Read Fianna Fáil on Budget 2018: Tax cuts will be ‘modest’ while social welfare increases ‘won’t be miserly’>

Read McGrath: ‘How did the banks happen to make the same mistake that hurt their customers?’>

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel