JobPath no longer fit for purpose
Speech by Labour TD, Deputy Brendan Ryan, in Dáil Éireann, 05/02/2019
Remarks on Job Path
The Labour Party will be supporting the Sinn Féin motion tonight.
The devastating crash caused by Fianna Fáil’s disastrous economic management saw unemployment peak in late 2011 at 15.9%, with hundreds of thousands losing their jobs, emigrating or underemployed.
The crisis of record high unemployment has been addressed, but much work remains to be done to help move back into work and education.
A privatised approach is no longer needed.
The pressure from the Troika to set up Job Path came in the context of very high unemployment.
The greatest concern for policymakers and politicians was the prospect of a generation of workers becoming long term unemployed and lost to the world of work, as happened in the 1980s.
Thankfully that has been avoided.
It is our view that public and community services are much better placed now to deliver the tailored supports to workers, rather than for profit entities like Seetec and Turas Nua.
The Department should go back to fully supporting the Local Employment Service, and resourcing Community Employment schemes, along with education and training programmes to help those most distant from the workforce to reskill and equip themselves for work.
Labour is justifiably proud that due to the work we started, unemployment has fallen for 25 straight quarters in a row.
That is one of the biggest drops in unemployment ever in the developed world.
The crisis of unemployment saw many different approaches applied to get people back to work.
Under Pathways to Work and the Action Plan for Jobs, hundreds of measures were taken.
Much more remains to be done.
But some of those measures can now be retired.
The success of schemes like Jobs Plus, Community Employment, Back to Education, Momentum, and Tus in keeping people’s skills relevant, and helping them back into work – has worked.
The business case for Job Path no longer exists.
At the peak of the crisis, there were 321,900 people unemployed, a long term unemployment rate of 9.5% (a year or more out of work), and thousands of people underemployed and emigrating.
Job Path was a creation of the time when unemployment was significantly higher and expected to remain high for some time to come. Frankly, none of the experts in the Troika, the Department or elsewhere expected the jobs-rich recovery we have seen.
In fact, for some time, many critics claimed that these weren’t real jobs at all and that the jobs figures were false or misleading.
At present, based on the latest figures published just today by the CSO there is a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.3%
That is still too high but there is no justification for continuing the commercial contracting of activation services to Job Path.
The figures show a total of 127,300 people out of work. Unfortunately, no breakdown on duration is available in that series.
Looking at the most recent data available from the more comprehensive Labour Force Survey there were 50,200 long term unemployed but that will have fallen since.
There is no justification for a programme of the scale of Job Path any longer to address that. There is more than adequate capacity within Intreo, the Local Employment Service and Activation schemes.
Going back to early 2016, there were over 125,000 long term unemployed so the numbers have continued to fall, and will continue to do so.
So any analysis of the facts related to employment and the activation supports provided under the Intreo service shows that there is sufficient capacity now to support those who need assistance.
It is also disappointing that since the contract for Job Path was awarded in 2015 there has been no comprehensive external evaluation of the service.
That is why I want to emphasise the support of the Labour Party for local employment services particularly their one-on-one approach, the individualised supports they put in place for those seeking employment, especially those who may have disabilities, low educational or training qualifications or criminal records.
The recent Indecon report shows the effectiveness of their on the ground approach.
There is fear that I hope the Minister will allay, that the next series of tenders for local employment services will be a national tender that will exclude local partnerships and by default privatise the service out to the likes of Seetec.
Unfortunately, no similar study is available on Job Path. After three years it is bizarre that no independent data is available on the performance of the service.
Under the current Job Path contract, the last referrals will be at the end of 2019, with a two-year work out period up to 2021.
The Minister now should commit, in the house that Fine Gael will not extend the period for client referrals by two years as provided for in the terms of the contract.
I hope the Minister will give that assurance.
The one size fits all approach of Jobs Path is no longer appropriate. It’s time to go back to the tailored local approach that has a proven track record.