A Galway TD has criticised the Jobpath employment activation programme, insisting that people are tied up for too long on a scheme that has only minor success and prevents them from getting involved in the likes of Community Employment Schemes, where they could learn valuable skills.
Independent Deputy Noel Grealish has called for the rules of the scheme — in which more than 75,000 people have been involved since it started in 2015 — to be changed to allow participants join other schemes at the same time, or to take up temporary employment.
He also wants changes made to allow unemployed people to apply to take part in the scheme, which aims to equip participants in skills like preparing CVs and applying for jobs, rather than the current basis of people being selected at random.
“At the moment people taking part in Jobpath are spending an hour or two a week on things like learning how to do up a CV, interview techniques and the like.
“But for the whole year that they are doing this, they are not allowed to take part in any other job activation scheme, like the Community Employment or Tús Schemes.
“There's a lot of problems facing CE schemes and Tús schemes — there’s lot of difficulty for a start getting them approved, but when they do, they can sometimes find it difficult to get the people to fill the places.
“Some people who are in Jobpath, and would dearly love to get involved in these schemes in their local area, can’t get out of it — they have to wait until they are done before they can be considered. That’s a whole year.
“You could easily do both, you don't get any extra money. You are only spending two and a half days a week on a CE scheme and an hour or two on Jobpath, so you could easily manage them at the same time,” said Deputy Grealish.
The Galway West Independent TD also said he had come across a case where someone on the Jobpath programme was offered temporary employment on a construction site in their local area, but was told that they couldn’t take it up, even though they were happy to return to Jobpath once the few weeks’ work was over.
“And as I understand it, people who stop attending face having their unemployment benefits stopped for nine weeks as a penalty, so no-one wants to risk that.”
Deputy Grealish said there was a big question mark over how much was achieved by the scheme, which is administered in Galway and the northern half of the country by a private company, Seetec.
“To be honest, most of the people on Jobpath who have contacted my constituency office tell me that they feel it’s a waste of time and a lot of them question its value.
“I can’t see the great benefit of it, it looks a bit pointless. It’s another layer to massage figures as far as I can see.”
Deputy Grealish, who raised the issue in a Dáil question to the Minister for Social Protection last week, also said the rules covering getting involved in Jobpath should be changed.
“I’m not saying it’s entirely a bad idea and I know that for some people it has proven a success and helped them to find work and support them in keeping that job. But it’s had limited success and changes need to be made to the rules.
“I think also that it might be a better idea to end the random selection of people to go on Jobpath. It might work better for everyone if you were allowed to apply for it, then you would have people being helped who really feel it would do them some good.
“They are picking people of all ages at the moment, there are people going in there nearly 60 years of age producing CVs and stuff when it is pretty pointless.”