There are a number of key features which enables my Department to monitor all aspects Seetec's performance and ensure contract compliance.
Every participant is provided with a service guarantee - a baseline level of service covering frequency of engagement, personal progression planning, geographic accessibility and in-employment support.
On-site inspections are carried out as part of the monitoring of JobPath contractor performance. As at end of June 2019, a total of 50 on-site inspections have been carried out at Seetec service delivery locations around the country and these will continue for the duration of the JobPath contract. Inspections may be notified or un-notified and can focus on specific matters of interest or can be general oversight, as required.
The inspections monitor compliance with the service level agreement and the contract generally, including, for example, the suitability and standard of accommodation, staffing levels, Irish language compliance, customer service and customer feedback, checking the client’s Personal Progression Plan, Review Meetings compliance, the checking of Job Sustainment Fee Evidence Types and Exit Plans.
As part of their contractual obligations, the provider is required to have a comprehensive Complaints Process and this is advertised in all Seetec office locations. The process contains various levels of escalation, allowing complaints to be dealt with at a level appropriate to the concern.
Should a customer remain dissatisfied having exhausted the contractor's Complaint Process, they can request my Department to carry out a review. In this way it can be established if the complaint has been fully dealt with, and in a fair and reasonable manner. If the customer remains dissatisfied following a review, they have the option to refer the matter to the Office of the Ombudsman.
As at end of June 2019, approximately 126,000 Jobseekers have engaged with the service provided by Seetec, with 311 complaints received in total, 0.25 per cent. I am advised that my Department is not aware of any complaint referred to the Office of the Ombudsman.
To ensure that services are being delivered satisfactorily from the customers perspective, my Department has commissioned regular Customer Satisfaction Surveys, the latest of which was completed at the end of 2018. Since the surveys began in 2016, some 3,000 Seetec customers have responded to the surveys, which are conducted over the phone. The results have been overwhelmingly positive with overall satisfaction ranging from 76% to 81% satisfaction versus only 5% to 8% dissatisfaction over the 3 years. All of the evidence available to my Department indicates that the experience of customers who have engaged with the JobPath service to date has been quite positive. The results of the Customer Satisfaction Surveys are published on my Departments website www.welfare.ie.
It is important to note that underperformance identified through audits and inspections or resulting from client feedback and satisfaction with the level of service offered by the Contractor or as a result of ongoing quantitative assessment of actual performance as compared to the base level commitment, may result in the reduction in fees paid of up to 15%. Where the Contractor does not address the issue that gives rise to use of retention fees to the satisfaction of the Department, the Department has the right to terminate the contract. There has been no instance where retention fees have been applied.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.