A number of social welfare issues have a major impact on people's lives. One which has been to the forefront in the lives of many people in my constituency is the plight of self-employed people and the fact they get very little out of the PRSI they pay, except when they come to the end of their working days and are entitled to pensions. Many people who have fallen on hard times or have fallen ill need to have a proper PRSI package in place in order to ensure they can avail of various services. While we have gone some distance on that, the system is nowhere near where it needs to be.
I refer to the various programmes in place for people in receipt of jobseeker's benefit or allowance. A woman in my constituency came to see me recently. She is separated and is 62 years of age. She was on a Tús scheme for a year. When she finished it she was delighted because she was working every day in her community and was involved in the tidy towns committee, such as planting flowers and painting. She loved her work and wanted to continue doing that. She had hoped when this work had finished that she would be able to go onto a community employment scheme. She was about to be accepted onto one when she received a letter from JobPath. The shutters came down and she is unable to go anywhere else. The truth is there are very few jobs for anyone in rural County Leitrim, particularly for those who are 62 years of age.
A woman in her early 60s is in a similar situation. She lives in a rural area and does not drive. For the past number of years she has looked after her elderly parents and now that they have passed away she has been refused disability allowance, despite being in poor health. She ended up in receipt of jobseeker's allowance and received a letter from JobPath telling her to go to Carrick-on-Shannon twice a week. It is almost 40 miles away from where she lives and she cannot drive. She is expected to write CVs and prepare for jobs that do not exist. The scheme is totally out of kilter with reality.
A man in his mid-50s runs a small farm and is in receipt of farm assist. He is in a similar situation, in that having completed a scheme he hoped to get onto another community employment scheme. Such schemes are in place for people in rural Ireland, fit into their lifestyles and are very progressive. The man to whom I refer has a low level of educational attainment but now finds that he is expected to work on computers and learn how to write CVs.
I struggled with these situations and phoned Seetec, the company which runs the programme in our area. It was like beating my head off a brick wall. It is a private company which has been hired by the State to carry out the service. It is simply a means of humiliating, putting to one side and dehumanising people. It is totally wrong.
I went to see a film, "I, Daniel Blake", yesterday. It is based on the social welfare system in Britain. Everything I have been told by the people in my constituency was in the film. It is about a man who lost his job as a carpenter and entered a system that was designed to dehumanise and frustrate him at every turn. It is never good to tell anyone the end of a film, but the man dies from despair. That is the reality of the situation. The film was symbolic of our system. We have copied a model which has failed in Britain. We are privatising what is supposed to be a service for people. It is the most retrograde step in the social welfare system of the past number of years. We have developed a model to destroy people's lives.
Every Deputy has examples of people in a similar position to those to whom I referred and have come up against the machine of Seetec and JobPath. It is a machine that blocks, wears down, destroys and dehumanises people. In the past, many references were made to raging against the machine. We need to rage against this machine. I implore the Minister and the Government to rethink their position. Other schemes were recognised as failures. This is another scheme which simply does not work and needs to be taken asunder.
The reality is that there are no jobs for an awful lot of people in my constituency. There are certainly no jobs for people in the later years of life who need assistance. They find that the current system is blocking, frustrating and destroying their lives. It is time that, above all else, this scheme was eliminated. A vast amount of taxpayers' money has been used to employ a company to run a scheme which simply does not work. It is time to recognise that at an early stage and dismantle it immediately.