Job Path on the Ropes – Eoghan Brunkard explains why Job Path maybe on its way out the door.
In late 2016, myself and Cian O Flattery set out to lobby on behalf of Community Employment Schemes and participants across the State. We quickly formed a lobby group with initially ten other C.E. Schemes in the Dublin South Inner City area. Campaigning for better wages for C.E. participants as well as an increased training budget. The group named itself the C.E. Reform Campaign. After numerous meetings, we established that the Job Path policy was costing C.E. schemes placements and services were in threat of closure.
This Job Path policy was also found to be damaging to participants who were threatened by the service, mismanaged and intimated. Myself and Mr O’Flattery made representation with the Sinn Fein shadow for Social Protection, John Brady, explaining the threat Job Path posed to Community Employment. We also made representation with the Social Democrat Gary Gannon, Labour’s Willie Penrose, all of which helped as best they could. We continually appealed to the then Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to deal reasonably with the situation.
Our efforts did provide dividends when Sinn Fein took up the cause and moved towards the cessation of the Job Path Programme as their main Social Welfare Policy Platform. Yesterday, Sinn Fein deputy John Brady put forward a motion in Dáil Eireann calling for the immediate cessation of Job Path and additional funding to be distributed to CE Schemes, LES and other labour activation schemes throughout the state.
On Tuesday 5th of February, I was called into the Dáil to explain the interaction problems between Job Path and C.E., as well as describe why the Job Path programme was not only unnecessary but potentially damaging to participants, I read the below statement to a committee hall of TDs, parliamentary assistants and other interested parties.
It appears that Fianna Fail will support the motion, which now makes it more likely to pass.
For more on the motion please follow this link to the Journal’s article https://www.thejournal.ie/jobpath-scheme-motion-4479020-Feb2019/
This is an excellent start to the demise of the odious policy.
My own statement follows:
CE SCHEMES POSITION ON THE JOB PATH SERVICE
This statement was written in consultation with 29 different C.E. based community organisations. Collectively, we have identified the following issues with the Job Path service from a Community Employment Perspective
Firstly, it is important to point out that Community Employment provides communities across the State with essential services that were previously not funded by state provision. A large amount of Non Profit Companies and Charities rely heavily on CE staff. These services affect the general populace in a number of meaningful ways, particularly, in facilitating people to be able to work through child and social care services.
From its inception in 2016, the Job Path service was given priority in placements of long term jobseekers by Dept of Social Protection offices around the State. Subsequently, CE referrals began to decrease as it was placed in direct competition with the Job Path service.
In addition, to this preferential treatment, Job Path companies engaged in “poaching” potential CE placements. Our organisations would refer potential participants to the department to sign on to specific CE positions. We would find out laterally that they had been placed on the Job Path service. Our different organisations would then have to go through a lengthy process of engaging with Seetec to have the participant’s original wish honoured and placed in the CE position. In some cases, the person was unable to leave the Job Path service
In late 2016, coordinated by myself, a number of CE Schemes organised into a lobby group to deal with dwindling referrals and the threat Job Path posed to our services. As representatives here can understand, a lot of these CE schemes are engaged in childcare, social care or youth project services, where staff-to-child ratios are a legal necessity. Our member services feared that curtailment of hours and service provision would be necessary due to dwindling numbers being referred for CE positions.
The conclusion of this campaign came when the government changed its policy to allow Job Path companies to refer to CE Scheme positions. It was not actually what we lobbied for, we only requested that Job Seekers be given a choice. This new policy led to the following problems:
1. Job Path companies were given the power to possibly interfere with the participant’s rostering within the CE Sponsoring Company. This can occur when participants sent by Job Path to CE positions, receive instruction to attend regular meetings during work hours, despite being in the employment of the CE sponsoring group.
2. The CE participant, who is by definition a long term unemployed person and often, someone who is in a vulnerable position, would be placed in the middle of two mentors; one a Job Path mentor and the other C.E. Supervisor. It was felt that this could compromise the participant and was, in any way, inefficient and illogical.
3. Sponsor companies had concerns relating to GDPR breaches where they may be obliged to divulge information to a third party (Job Path).
4. As a point for State expenditure and good practice, participants were being engaged in two interventions at the same time. It appears to be double funding for the same service.
5. Our members also were concerned who was being attributed the success of participants progressing into employment, while being engaged simultaneously with two different intervention programmes. It must be noted that the continuation of a CE project is largely dependent on a previously agreed progression rate into mainstream employment or further education.
Despite the changes in policy, C.E. Schemes have still reported repeated problems of trying to retain potential C.E. participants who, while trying to take up a specific C.E. placement were referred to Job Path companies.
In some cases, our organisations reported that C.E. participants, who were finally, wrestled from Job Path, still, continually receive letters threatening to cut their welfare payments for non compliance with the Job Path Service. It should be understood that these people are coming from a vulnerable place and can be intimidated by these threats.
In quick conclusion, C.E. Schemes motivate the long term unemployed into the employment sphere through realistic training and intense mentoring, which is premised on an understanding that people can become stuck in a mindset/culture of unemployment. They also address the ‘distance from the labour market’ some unemployed people experience due to lack of education and experience and substantially up skill them. The constant supervision afforded to them by supervisors serves to encourage and overcome individual fears often about formal education or the structure of a professional work environment.
CE is also a vital community resource, the services it provides knits communities together. These services often exist where no other offering is available due to social deprivation. With their absence, communities would suffer. C.E. schemes facilitate parents to work through crèche and afterschool services. They maintain social goods such as football pitches and community halls. Help run services for people with intellectual disabilities and senior citizens. They also provide administration to a plethora of community groups and charities.
By contrast Job Path companies are dealing with vulnerable populations as products that need to be placed in immediate employment that participants may not be ready for. They do this solely because the Job Path companies in question wish to release the full funding for the participant. We are concerned that the training involved in Job Path appears non-specific, CV construction, broad job skills, compared with the QQI courses CE could potentially provide participants. In addition, mentors provide infrequent supports and the service, anecdotally at least, appears to use intimidatory tactics to achieve its goals with people in a position of high vulnerable.