Minister Regina Doherty has defended the scheme
A total of 160 Carlow people on social welfare have been sanctioned under the JobPath scheme, Carlow Live can reveal after the Government’s job activation programme came under fire this week.
Sinn Féin's John Brady moved a motion in the Dáil calling on the Government to end the referral of Jobseekers to JobPath after he submitted a series of Parliamentary Questions on the service.
JobPath is an employment activation service provided to people who have been on the live register for more than 12 months and are trying to secure and sustain full-time paid employment or self-employment.
Figures published this week by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, revealed there were 4,765 Jobseekers in Carlow who engaged with JobPath between July 2015 and January 2019.
Out of those, a total of 160 Jobseekers had a penalty rate applied during their engagement with JobPath between that same period.
Jobseekers face financial sanctions if they do not engage with two private companies employed by the State to operate the scheme - Turas Nua and Seetec - after referral by the Department for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
Those that refuse to engage with the scheme can have their social welfare reduced or cut off.
The Minister says "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".
Nationwide, between July 2015 and January 2019 approximately 14,000 Jobseekers had a penalty rate applied to their payment at some point during their engagement period with the JobPath service.
Launching the Dáil motion, Deputy Brady said issues and concerns highlighted about the scheme continue to be ignored by Government.
"JobPath is compulsory. If a participant has a part-time job or family commitments, it does not matter, they are forced to attend and engage with JobPath.
"This compulsory nature is not helpful and it needs to be removed," he said.
Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea said his party would be backing the Sinn Féin motion and he told the Dáil that since JobPath’s arrival in Ireland there has been an "explosion" in social welfare sanctions taken against people.
He said 55,000 social welfare sanctions nationwide have taken place since the scheme's inception in 2015.
The Minister says that figure is actually 14,000 Jobseekers who have had a penalty rate applied to their payment at some point during their engagement period with the JobPath service.
Defending the Government’s scheme, Minister Doherty said approximately 41,000 individuals have found full-time jobs while engaged with the JobPath service – with a further 5,000 finding part-time jobs.
In a written response to Deputy Brady, she said: "JobPath providers do not apply or recommend the application of a penalty rate of payment. They simply advise my Department if a Jobseeker is failing to attend activation meetings.
"Officials in my Department then contact the Jobseeker and seek to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter directly with them.
"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."