As the Deputy will be aware, JobPath is a service that supports people who are long-term unemployed to obtain and sustain paid employment. The service was launched in 2015 on a ‘rolling basis’ with referral numbers gradually increasing over time.
JobPath providers do not apply or recommend the application of a penalty rate of payment. They simply advise the Department if a jobseeker is failing to attend activation meetings without good cause. The application of penalty rates is entirely a matter for my Department and officials involved will take all relevant factors into account.
In the interests of natural justice, a jobseeker who fails to participate in the activation process, whether that is provided directly by the Intreo Service or via a contracted service provider, is given both written and verbal warnings and an opportunity to comply before a reduced rate of payment is applied. Furthermore, Jobseekers can, through co-operation with the activation service of my Department, benefit from early re-instatement of the full rate of Jobseeker’s payment.
The legislation underpinning the application of reduced rates of payment is provided for in the Social Welfare Act 2010. All decisions on the application of reduced rates of payment are made by Deciding Officers and are based on all the available evidence and the circumstances of each case. The Jobseeker can appeal the Deciding Officer’s decision through the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).
Reduced rates are only applied where a job seeker fails to engage as requested, and following at least two warnings, with the Department’s employment services.
Between July 2015 and December 2017, circa 141,000 jobseekers had commenced their engagement period with the service.
Up to the end of December 2017, approximately 6,500 jobseekers had a penalty rate applied to their payment at some point during their engagement period with the JobPath service. The estimated breakdown per year is 63 in 2015, 1,215 in 2016 and 5,222 in 2017.
To be clear, the application of penalty rates is entirely a matter for my department and officials involved will take into account all relevant factors including where appropriate non-engagement with externally provided activation services. In this regard, while I am happy to advise the Deputy on penalty rates applied to those who have engaged with the JobPath service, the factors to be considered in applying a penalty rate precludes me from making a definitive statement that the sole context involved would have been non engagement with JobPath.