Thursday, 3 December 2020

Questions (7)

Brian Stanley

Question:

7. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider a review of the JobPath programme; and her views on whether it has provided value for money for the State. [30677/20]

View answer

Oral answers (9 contributions) (Question to Social)

Ní fheicim an Teachta Stanley. An bhfuil an Teachta Kerrane ag tógáil na ceiste seo ar a shon? Is Deputy Kerrane taking the question for deputy Stanley?

Yes. The question asks if the Minister will consider a review of the JobPath programme and her views on whether it has provided value for money for the State.

I thank the Acting Chairman and the Deputy. Internationally and in Ireland, research consistently indicates that the provision of a personal advisory case management service to unemployed jobseekers is an effective method of supporting jobseekers to secure and sustain employment. JobPath is simply a mechanism through which this support is provided. It provides long term unemployed jobseekers with access to an employment assistance and advice service for a period of 12 months. It is a payment by results model with day-to-day operational costs and risks borne by the contractors. They are paid on the basis of performance and, with the exception of the initial registration fee, payments are made only when a client achieves sustained, full-time employment.

Job sustainment fees are payable for each 13-week period of sustained employment, up to a maximum of 52 weeks. The total cost of the JobPath service from 2015 to the end of October this year is €247.9 million. Given the total number of engagements to date is almost 284,000, the cost per client is €873. Delivering 12 months of employment service engagement, which requires meeting every client once every 20 working days, at this cost provides value for money and compares favourably with other contracted public employment services.

To date more than 168,000 individuals had completed at least one full engagement with JobPath. In excess of 64,000 jobseekers who had engaged with JobPath had secured employment. In 2019, my Department published a review, in partnership with the OECD, measuring JobPath's effectiveness. Findings indicated that weekly earnings of people who secured employment after JobPath engagement were 17% higher than the weekly employment earnings of people who secured employment without the support of JobPath in 2018.

Taken with the 26% improvement in employment outcomes or the likelihood of a person getting a job in the same period, it means the overall positive impact was 37% in 2018 for those supported by the JobPath service.

The Minister stated 64,000 people secured employment but she did not add that they did not sustain that employment for anywhere close to a year. In fact, the number who sustained it for a year is much lower.

With regard to the cost per client, the Minister cited a figure of €873. `Will she confirm that the referral fee of €311 is paid every time a person is referred, regardless of whether it is for the second or third time? We are aware that people have been referred for a second and third time. If the fee is paid on each occasion, it does not represent value for money.

On the cost per client of €873, the Minister will be aware that there is a fee for each of the four 13-week periods for which a job is sustained. The four sustainment fees are €613, €773, €892 and €1,965. For every person who sustains a job for one year, there is a payment to the company of €3,718.

I understand the average is €838 per person who sustains a job through JobPath. The Deputy asked whether a payment is received if a person is referred for a second or third time. I believe it is the case but I do not want to give the Deputy an incorrect answer. I will clarify the matter for her.

JobPath is just one part of the jigsaw. We are also expanding the capacity of other contracted employment services, such as local employment services, job clubs and employability services. The contracts are also being extended into next year. I had a very good meeting with the local employment service providers last week at which I outlined clearly to them that they are going to play a vital role in getting people back to work. I want to increase the capacity of the local employment services by 50%, from 20,000 to 30,000. I also want to expand the community-based contracted service into four new geographical areas where a local employment service does not currently exist. My Department hopes to issue a tender for those services before the end of the year. We are also expanding the capacity of job search support services provided by the Intreo offices countrywide.

I welcome the fact that the Minister is to revert to me on the referral fee. If that fee is paid every time the same person is referred, which can be up to three times, and if there are more than 1,000 people in this category, as in this case, it means €10 million alone is given to the companies. If that is the case, as I believe, it does not represent value for money.

I welcome what the Minister said about the local employment service. It is excellent and community based, and it includes the wrap-around supports, which are really important right now when people are suffering in other ways, particularly regarding mental health. Again, I ask the Minister to consider the average payment because there are four sustainment fees that increase every 13 weeks.

With regard to community employment, CE, and additional places in that regard, CE schemes cannot find participants to fill their places because everyone is being pushed into JobPath. The Minister should really investigate the impact of JobPath on other schemes.

The total number of people engaged in JobPath is more than 280,000, giving a total cost per client of €873, delivering 12 months of employment service since engagement. This cost compares favourably with the cost of the Intreo and local employment services and provides value for money for taxpayers. I want to be clear on that.

The maximum number of times a person can be referred under JobPath will be two. One of the two companies delivering the JobPath service is a farmers' co-operative. It is not a commercial enterprise and it is not for profit. The other company is an employee trust. It is owned by the employees and it is not commercial. Neither of the two companies delivering the JobPath service, Turas Nua and Seetec, is profit driven. The House should be made aware that they do not involve people coming in to try to make huge sums of money on the back of people looking for work.

Has there been any analysis of the hard cases for whom JobPath has not been able to secure employment? Has the Minister any figures on this? Has her Department had any engagement with the Open Doors Initiative or the Irish Association for Social Inclusion Opportunities?

We are obviously engaging with people. People referred to the employment services are the long-term unemployed who have difficulty in getting work. They are referred to the services so they can get the help they need to identify suitable jobs. We do not actually provide them with jobs but we provide them with the assistance they need. We continue to engage with them regularly to try to provide the supports. Some of the supports needed to get people back to work are very specific and tailored. What we want to do is work with those concerned, especially through the local employment services, JobPath providers and Intreo offices. All the services exist to help to get people back into the workforce. Sometimes it does not work so we re-engage and try to help those concerned and walk with them. It must be acknowledged that, for some, it is difficult. I acknowledge the work of all the staff in the service. I spoke to representatives of the local employment services and of the local development companies last week. They really are doing wonderful work.