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JobPath Programme

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 3 December 2020

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Questions (3)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

3. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has considered reducing the payment rates made to JobPath providers given the extension of the scheme for a further 12 months; if she will consider allowing those referred to JobPath to transfer to another job activation scheme especially if they have already completed JobPath once, to ensure that other schemes such as community employment do not suffer when it comes to filling places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40413/20]

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Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Social)

I want to ask about the continuation of the JobPath scheme for a further 12 months. This is the second time the scheme has been extended. Can the rates or fees paid to the companies be reduced, given they have now been given a further 12 months? Will the Minister consider allowing participants to move on to other schemes without having to remain with JobPath in consideration of the impact on other schemes, given so many are being referred to JobPath?

Research consistently indicates that the provision of personal case-managed employment services to jobseekers is an effective method of supporting jobseekers to secure and sustain employment, while reducing welfare costs and enhancing social value to a society. In October, I announced that my Department agreed an extension with both JobPath contractors, as well as extending the contracts of other contracted employment service providers - the local employment services and job clubs - into 2021. These extensions are required to ensure that our public employment service has the capacity to respond to the labour market fallout arising from the pandemic and can support those jobseekers who need help, support and advice. It is also to be borne in mind that referrals to contracted providers were suspended during the pandemic and this lost time and the delayed referrals now need to be made up.

The extension of the JobPath contracts provides value for money for the taxpayer.

The payment by results element of these contracts ensures that aside from a registration fee, the contractors only receive additional fees when an individual secures sustainable full-time employment lasting at least 13 weeks.

I am confident that delivering 12 months of employment service engagement for an average cost per client of €873 provides value for money and compares favourably with costs of other contracted public employment services. To put this cost into perspective, the JobPath providers must provide an engagement with every client once every 20 working days. Last year's review provided strong evidence of the benefits arising from JobPath, with individuals benefiting by 37% through increased employment outcomes and higher earnings compared with individuals who had not availed of the JobPath service.

People who are referred to one of my Department's contracted public employment services must complete this engagement with that provider for a period of 12 months or until they transition into employment.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

I should mention at this point that I have recently instructed my officials that no person should be referred to JobPath on more than two occasions. Practical steps are under way in my Department at present to implement this instruction.

JobPath is not an obstacle to filling community employment. Since June 2018, persons availing of the JobPath service may also participle on community employment, CE, or Tús schemes. This enables people engaging with JobPath to continue to receive the personalised employment counselling and job search support while availing of a Tús or CE placement, providing valuable occupational activity and work experience.

Jobseekers engaging with JobPath who opt to take up CE or Tús schemes are fully facilitated in respect of the scheduling of all meetings and activities. Community employment participants are not referred to JobPath for the duration of their placement on the scheme once the CE placement date precedes the JobPath referral.

I am asking the Minister if there is a clause in the contract between her Department and the JobPath providers, who have been given another 12-month period, that allows her to reduce the fees being paid to those companies. The Minister made a few points. She spoke about value for money. I will give her a brief example in that regard. More than 1,000 people have been referred to JobPath for a third time. Every time someone is referred, the companies get a payment of €311. The Minister mentioned a cost of €873 and she also said they are paid when they source employment for somebody. The initial referral fee is €311. That has been paid three times in respect of just one person. It is paid over and over again. That is a total of €1.2 million alone in referral fees for the more than 1,000 people who have been referred three times. Someone in contact with my constituency office yesterday had been referred for a third time. I do not see that being value for money.

I thank the Deputy. I confirm that we have changed the rules. I have instructed my officials that no person should be referred to JobPath on more than two occasions, and practical steps are under way in my Department to implement that instruction. JobPath provides advice to people. It helps them to look at how they can apply for jobs. It prepares them and tries to identify jobs that suit them. The contractors are obliged to engage and provide this employment assistance with each client at least once every 20 working days. Therefore, in situations where only a registration fee is paid to a contractor, they receive, on average, a payment of €311 for the provision of approximately 12 engagements with a client over the course of a year. That equates to a little under €6 per week for the provision of employment services.

Will the Minister confirm that the referral fee of €311 is paid twice if a person is referred to the scheme twice, that is, in the case of more than 33,000 people who have been referred to the scheme twice? If they are getting the referral fee twice for those same people, that is a cost of more than €10 million. I ask the Minister again if she believes that is value for money? Does she know how many of the 283,826 people who have been referred to JobPath are engaged with the scheme today? Also, the success rate so far for those sustaining employment for 12 months or more is approximately 7% of the total referred. Again, that is not value for money.

Will the Minister examine the impact JobPath is having on other schemes? There are community employment schemes that do so much work without which work in communities simply would not be done. They cannot find people to fill places on community employment schemes because there is a preference in the Minister's Department to refer jobseekers to JobPath only.

To be clear, the JobPath scheme has been reviewed on a number of occasions. The OECD review showed that, overall, those who participate in JobPath have better employment outcomes and earnings than those who are not supported by JobPath. The total cost of JobPath services to date is €247.7 million. That is since 2015. The total number of people engaged to date is more than 280,000, giving a total cost per client of €873, and delivering 12 months of employment services for that cost.

We are facing record unemployment because of the pandemic. There are almost 200,000 people on the live register and approximately 350,000 on the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP. We hope that many of those people will be able to return to their jobs when restrictions ease, but the sad reality is that not everybody will be able to go back to the job they were doing previously. I do not believe that now is the time to cut employment services of any kind.

Thank you, Minister.

I am sorry, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, but not one single question I asked has been answered.

There is no provision for the Deputy to come in again. I am very sorry.

I just want to make that point.

I am very sorry. I know the Deputy wants to but she cannot. Question No. 4 is in the name of Deputy Michael Lowry.

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