Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Questions (617)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

617. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of social welfare recipients who had their payments cut or reduced on foot of recommendations by Turas Nua or Seetec in each of the past two years and to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9431/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Penalty rates were introduced as a means of encouraging jobseekers to engage with activation measures and co-operate with efforts of the Department to assist them in securing employment. The Department is committed, under Pathways to Work, to incentivise the take-up of activation opportunities, including implementing sanctions for failure to engage.

The legislation underpinning the application of penalty rates is provided for in the Social Welfare Act, 2010. Penalty rates can only be applied by a Deciding Officer of my Department in specific circumstances, and not by way of recommendation from Seetec or Turas Nua. Seetec and Turas Nua merely inform the Department of non-engagement with their service, and the Deciding Officer makes a decision by examining all the facts and circumstances of each case. Only then is a penalty rate applied if appropriate and in line with the legislation.

In all cases where a JobPath customer has been penalty rated, full payment is restored immediately upon re-engagement with JobPath.

Contracted providers cannot and do not apply penalty rates. There has been no change in policy, or the implementation of penalty rate provisions in this respect. Penalty rates are only applied as a last resort. If dissatisfied with the decision of my Deciding Officer, it is open to the Jobseeker to appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

The following table shows the number of JobPath customers who received at least one Penalty Rate in the years 2017 to end January 2019.

No of Recipients Penalty Rated

Year Penalty rates applied

86

2019

4,447

2018

6,019

2017