Bill seeks to stop JobPath banning unemployed from other schemes

Some long-term jobless being ‘unfairly coerced’ into labour activation initiative – O’Dea

The most recently available figures show that 18 per cent of JobPath participants acquired a permanent job from the initiative. File photograph: Getty Images

The most recently available figures show that 18 per cent of JobPath participants acquired a permanent job from the initiative. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A Bill is to be introduced in the Dáil to stop the labour activation scheme JobPath preventing participants from taking up places on other community and work schemes.

The legislation will give a legal entitlement to a long-term unemployed person to participate in a community employment scheme, the rural social scheme or the Tús scheme, rather than a JobPath placement.

The three alternative schemes are initiatives operated on a community and voluntary level, while JobPath operates on a “payments by results” model.

It is an employment-stimulation measure for people on the live register for a year or more, who receive mentoring from an employment adviser for up to 18 months.

Two firms are contracted to provide advice and receive bonuses if participants secure a permanent job. The advisers are provided by two private contractors, Turas Nua which operates mainly across the south of the country, and English firm Seetec, which oversees the scheme in Dublin and northern regions.

The most recently available figures show that 18 per cent of participants acquired a permanent job from the initiative. Up to the end of last year, 141,000 jobseekers had engaged with JobPath, more than half of whom had been unemployed for more than three years.

‘Hidden’ talents

Jobseekers selected to take part in JobPath are said to receive assistance in areas such as identifying “hidden” talents and skills, identifying potential fields of work, searching for jobs, tailoring CVs and preparing for interviews, as well as “building confidence and motivation”.

Fianna Fáil employment affairs spokesman Willie O’Dea, who will introduce the Social Welfare (Community Employment) Bill, said he and his colleagues had been “inundated with complaints from people who feel that they are being unfairly coerced into JobPath” when they would prefer to take up places in community employment, or on a rural social scheme or Tús scheme, “which in many instances is more appropriate and suitable to their needs”.

He said the Bill would stop JobPath from “sidelining” these schemes, which he said were “integral to the social fabric of communities the length and breadth of the country”.

JobPath has been the subject of controversy since its introduction, and Opposition parties have described it as inefficient and repeatedly called for it to be wound down.

Allegations were made in the Dáil that the one of the contractors, Seetec, fraudulently claimed they had got a participant a job and that he was forced to sign documents confirming he was present at sessions he did not attend, otherwise he would not have been paid.

Minister for Employment Affairs & Social Protection Regina Doherty has initiated a review, due for completion this year.

The department confirmed €58.5 million has so far been paid to JobPath contractors for initial registrations and employment retention bonuses, but it refused to divulge the exact breakdown of fees given to each provider as this would “place the State at a disadvantage” for procurement purposes.

Mr O’Dea said his party was “determined to put a halt to Fine Gael’s right-wing and ill-conceived activation agenda, and reverse the damage that is being done to these vital schemes by JobPath”.

“We support these schemes and recognise the tremendous benefit that they bring not only to participants but to the community at large – and we are determined to safeguard them.”