Over 1,000 jobseekers in Galway and Mayo are participating in JobPath. Launched last July, JobPath is a new employment activation programme which provides one-to-one support and assistance to long term unemployed people.
The figures for Galway and Mayo were confirmed to me by Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection, Mr Kevin Humphreys to Deputy Kyne who raised the issue in the Dáil.
JobPath is a very positive programme because it is designed to support people who have been out of work for over a year or more.
While unemployment is down in Galway by over 30% since the launch of the first Action Plan for Jobs in February 2012, driving unemployment down further requires more intense and focused measures.
The longer a person is out of the workplace the more difficult it becomes to secure a new job. With JobPath, participants are assigned a personal advisor who assesses their skills, experience and work goals to draw up an individual plan, with specific supports, such as training and education, to find employment. While the duration of the Programme is set at one year, personal advisors work with participants for up to a year after they have secured a new job.
Seetec is the company administering JobPath in Galway. The Department is, however, conducting regular on-site inspections, as well as commissioning customer satisfaction surveys, to ensure that a high quality services is being provided to jobseekers in Galway.”
Transcript from Dáil:
Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection to report on the operation of the JobPath scheme, including the number of participants in counties Galway and Mayo and nationally; the number of persons who have found employment through the service; the level of monitoring by her of the service; and if additional supports are available to jobseekers as they undergo the transition back to work.
Deputy Seán Kyne: This relates to the operation of the JobPath scheme, including the number of participants in counties Galway and Mayo and nationally, and the number of persons have found employment through the service.
Deputy Kevin Humphreys: I wish Deputy Kyne a happy new year. It is very unusual for a Government backbencher to have two priority questions, so he should invest in a national lottery ticket tonight.
JobPath is a new approach to employment activation to support long-term unemployed people and those most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to secure and sustain employment. Two companies, Turas Nua and Seetec, have been contracted by the Department to deliver JobPath services. The roll-out of JobPath began last July on a soft launch basis and, as I stated earlier, the two pilots were in Bray and Longford. At the end of 2015, in excess of 7,500 jobseekers from 41 of the Department’s Intreo centres and local offices had been referred to JobPath. Of the 7,500 jobseekers referred, 1,000 were from the Galway and Mayo area. The JobPath companies have a year to work with each jobseeker in order to secure employment. As the service is in the roll-out phase and as no participant has completed the JobPath programme, there are as yet no meaningful statistics available on employment outcomes.
The JobPath companies will be subject to regular on-site inspections and audits to ensure that JobPath is delivered in accordance with contractual obligations. The Department will also commission customer satisfaction surveys to independently assess if customers are satisfied with the level and quality of service delivered by the contractors. Failure by the contractors to satisfy the Department’s inspectors or to achieve a satisfactory score in the independent survey will result in payment penalties being applied.
Participants on JobPath receive intensive individual support to help them address barriers to employment and to find jobs. Each person is assigned a personal adviser, who assesses the person’s skills, experience, challenges and work goals and agrees a personal progression plan that includes a schedule of activities, actions and job-focused targets. Participants are provided with a range of development supports and may also be referred for further education and training opportunities.
Deputy Seán Kyne: I thank the Minister of State for his reply. When I raised this previously in September it was stated that 200 people were referred in Galway, so there has been a huge increase, with 1,000 people in the Galway and Mayo area referred to an initiative which has only been in operation since July.
I welcome the progress that has been made. Will the Minister of State explain how the selection process for the scheme works? Is it random or is it targeted according to certain criteria?
The Minister of State referred to customer satisfaction. In regard to the service level agreement with Seetec, in the case of Galway, how is the Department ensuring JobPath is effective? Will he indicate what performance criteria apply in that regard?
Deputy Kevin Humphreys: The first criterion that applies in respect of eligibility for JobPath is that the applicant must be long-term unemployed, that is, more than one year out of work. Selection is random, the objective being to ensure there is no cherry-picking of candidates. There must be equality of opportunity for everybody. Since being rolled out in Galway, the scheme has also gone live in Achill, Ballina, Belmullet, Castlebar, Loughrea and Westport.
In respect of the assessment, especially the early assessment element, it is vital there be a customer satisfaction interaction. However, there simply are not the resources within the Department to give everybody that level of service. We want to ensure people who are long-term unemployed get the best possible supports to help them to access work. We cannot just look at this particular service in isolation. A number of targets have seen set across Government to assist persons who have been out of work long term. These are the people who, in the past, were always the last to receive the benefit of a recovery. We want them to share in the current recovery by accessing the opportunities for work that are coming on stream across the country.
Deputy Seán Kyne: The Minister of State indicated that selection for the scheme is on a random basis, with no cherry-picking of candidates. Does he agree that in certain instances, it might be advantageous to prioritise people who are very well suited to a particular job or training initiative? Might such prioritisation be considered in a percentage of cases?
The Minister of State talked about the ongoing roll-out of the JobsPlus scheme. In Connemara, people have to cross Galway city to access the Intreo office. Is the Department taking cognisance of such issues as distances travelled, availability of public transport and so on?
Deputy Kevin Humphreys: On the second question, there is ongoing co-operation and engagement through local Intreo offices. Where issues like those the Deputy mentioned have come up, they are covered under the contractual agreement. People are going to great lengths to ensure individuals can access the centres. Where there have been difficulties with transport, for example, minibuses have been hired to collect people and deliver them to the nearest centre. It is a flexible process.
The Deputy’s first question is about self-referral and it is something I expect to be raised more and more as we proceed. In the case of Tús, we responded to demand in this regard by stipulating that 20% of participants could be assigned via self-referral. In the case of JobPath, it is a little early in the process to take that type of approach. We have rolled out the pilot schemes, as I outlined. If the service works well, which I am confident it will, there will be a demand on future Governments to allow some element of self-referral. I am already hearing complaints from people whose neighbour was able to access JobPath but they were not. I see a future demand in that regard and I will encourage a response from Government when it arises.