The Department is committed, under Pathways to Work, to incentivise the take-up of activation opportunities, including implementing sanctions for failure to engage without good cause. The legislation underpinning the application of penalty rates is provided for in the Social Welfare Act, 2010. 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.
Penalty rates can only be applied by a Deciding Officer of my Department in specific circumstances and in line with the legislation. A full examination of all the facts of each case is undertaken and only then is a penalty rate applied, if appropriate. It should be noted that penalty rates are only applied as a last resort and if dissatisfied with a decision to apply a penalty rate it is open to a Jobseeker to appeal that decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.
In circumstances where a Jobseeker has failed to engage without good cause in the activation process, a penalty rate can be applied followed by a nine week disqualification of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Benefit. The disqualification may only be imposed in circumstances where a person, who has already had his or her rate reduced by way of a penalty rate for a period of not less than 21 calendar days (3 weeks) and continues to refuse or fail, without good cause, to engage with the Department’s activation service. However it is important to note that at any time while either a penalty rate or a nine week disqualification is in place, if the customer re-engages with the Department’s activation service the sanctions will be lifted immediately and normal payment restored.
As at the end of April 2019, there were 75,000 customers engaged with JobPath of which 487, or 0.6%, had a penalty rate applied to their Jobseeker’s claim. This figure is consistent with the overall level of penalty rates applied across all Jobseekers.
Unfortunately further data in relation to the question posed in this case is not available.
I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.