Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Questions (934)

John McGuinness

Question:

934. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on the outcome of the High Court case which found her Department to be acting illegally in sanctioning persons for refusing to sign a contract with a private company, namely Turas Nua and Seetec. [11892/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The recent court proceedings whereby an individual sought leave for judicial review to challenge decisions taken by my Department were refused by the High Court in the judgment delivered on 26th January 2018. I want to emphasise to the Deputy that there are no recent court decisions which have implications for the application of penalty rates by my Department and there is no basis for the contention, whatsoever, that my department is acting illegally in sanctioning people for refusing to sign a contract.

I also want to emphasise that Jobseekers are not required to sign a contract with JobPath service providers. Jobseekers are asked to complete and sign a Personal Progression Plan (PPP). A PPP is a crucial element of each jobseeker’s engagement with any of the Department’s activation services; generally the PPP will be an evolving document throughout the person’s engagement period as they develop employment related skills and competencies or job related experience from short periods of employment.

The primary goal of the Department’s activation services is to move people from unemployment to full-time and sustained employment. All jobseekers are required to engage with the Department’s activation service and this obligation applies irrespective of whether the service is provided by the Department’s own case officers or those advisors employed by external contractors such as the JobPath providers. Failure to engage without good cause may result in the jobseeker’s payment being reduced or temporarily suspended.

Legislation provides that sanctions/penalties in the form of reduced payments may be imposed by a Deciding Officer employed by my Department where recipients of jobseeker payments fail, without good cause, to comply with activation measures. Reduced rates are only applied where a jobseeker fails to engage as requested, and following at least two warnings, with the Department’s employment services.

I want to emphasise that personnel employed by the JobPath providers do not apply or recommend the application of a penalty rate of payment. They simply advise my Department if a jobseeker is failing to attend activation meetings. Officials in my Department will then contact the jobseeker to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter directly with them.

All decisions on the application of reduced rates of payment can only be made by a Deciding Officer of the Department and are based on all the available evidence and the circumstances of each case.

The legislation underpinning the application of reduced rates of payment is provided for in the Social Welfare Act 2010 and the jobseeker can appeal the Deciding Officer’s decision through the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.