JobPath operator accused of fraudulent behaviour in job finding

Seetec Ltd harassed employer to sign forms that it got job for unemployed man

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy. Photograph: Collins Courts

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A company operating the State’s jobs activation programme has been accused in the Dáil of fraud.

Seetec Ltd, one of the companies contracted to run the JobPath programme, fraudulently claimed they had got a participant a job, the House was told.

It heard they forced the man to sign documents confirming he was present at sessions he did not attend, otherwise he would not have got paid.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said legislation going through the Oireachtas was dealing with social welfare fraud but she warned the Government needed to investigate the operation of its own scheme, which was a “programme for profit” and being operated fraudulently.

She also criticised the “sledgehammer” approach to the introduction of the public services card and questioned the legality of denying a pensioner a pension they contributed to if they refused to register for the card.

Ms Murphy said that if a Minister was denied their pension on the same basis, it would be an issue for the High Court.

She was speaking during a Dáil debate on the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill which provides for the publication of the names of people engaged in social welfare fraud above €5,000.

The controversial Bill also proposes to remove restrictions on the use of the public services card so that it may be used more widely as a form of ID.

The Kildare North TD highlighted the case of a father of two referred in 2016 to JobPath, the programme to assist long-term unemployed to get back to full-time employment.

Ms Murphy said the man was referred despite being a casual worker and had to attend when notified “even if those times clashed with working hours he had been offered”.

But he was “rebuffed and ignored when he repeatedly told JobPath personnel he was “at risk of losing the bit of work he had if they refused to help him manage the times accordingly”.

He was then told to sign documents verifying attendance at sessions he had not attended. “When he expressed concern at signing he was told ‘not to worry about it’ and that he had to sign in order to get paid.”

She said the man was banned from accepting external offers during the training time and “threatened with sanctions if he accepted work outside the JobPath scenario”.

When he decided to take the risk of accepting an outside job offer he “found himself pestered by Seetec, the JobPath organising company to get his new employer to fraudulently fill out forms claiming JobPath had got him the job”.

Ms Murphy said that “both he and his new employer were repeatedly harassed to the point that the employer eventually signed the forms”.

She called on Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty to look at the JobPath scheme from the perspective of a citizen with a need, “rather than constantly looking to penalise and punish”.

And the criticised the Minister for “arrogantly” ignoring the concerns of people who raised legitimate and genuine questions about the public services card being used as an identity car.

Ms Murphy said the Minister’s arrogance was breathtaking “in an age where we know personal data is a valuable commodity and serious concerns exist regarding the digital safety of such information”.

Debate on the legislation continues.