Amid criticism and concerns about the JobPath programme, the recently rebranded Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has touted its successes.

Before we published Ben Panter’s article describing his experiences on JobPath, we sent it to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) – a recent name change for the Department of Social Protection – for comment.

Given the opportunity to respond to the article, the DEASP provided the following information:

The most recent performance report on the JobPath service, published on the DEASP’s website, indicates that 19% of jobseekers who engaged with JobPath between July 2015 and March 2016 entered full-time employment. This was 36% above the weighted reference performance rate of 14%.

Up to 31 October 2017, of the approximately 129,000 clients who had commenced with the service, 412 complaints have been made, representing 0.32% of the total number who have engaged.

The department commissioned a customer satisfaction survey to be carried out at the end of 2016. The survey was conducted using a representative sample of 2,000 JobPath clients (1,000 from each provider).

The results of the survey indicated that jobseekers feel that they are receiving a good service, with 76% to 81% satisfaction, against 5% to 8% dissatisfaction; that the contractor’s staff make them feel valued (90%+); and that they have a good relationship with their personal adviser (90%+). They also feel that the service has improved their chances of getting a job (68% to 77%).

There is a robust complaints process and inspections regime in place for the oversight of the JobPath contracts. Should a customer feel they have received a less than satisfactory service; it is recommended that they engage with the complaints process provided.

During their time on JobPath, participants are encouraged and supported to take up employment-related training, upskilling or other activities that could lead to a sustainable job, in addition to assistance with the job application process.

If a person is successful in finding employment, the JobPath company will provide in-work support to assist with the move back into employment.

What is JobPath?

JobPath is described on as “an employment activation service provided to assist jobseekers on the live register to secure and sustain full-time paid employment or self-employment”.  The service is provided on behalf of the Department by two private companies: Seetec and Turas Nua.

Who gets called?

The department selects jobseekers on a random basis for referral to JobPath. The scheme is backed by sanctions for those who, without good cause, do not cooperate.

Success v criticism

There is no doubting the government’s success in reducing unemployment, from a high of 15% five years ago to 6% today. Nonetheless, long-term unemployment remains high and the JobPath scheme – while well-meaning, and in spite of the government saying that the number of formal complaints is low – has drawn much criticism.

Opposition parties say JobPath makes it impossible for people to take up internships or CE places, to the detriment of communities depending on CE-supported services.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has raised very serious complaints about the scheme in the Dáil. Sinn Féin said JobPath sometimes makes it harder for unemployed people to find work and has published a document called ‘JobPath Exposed’. Fianna Fáil labour spokesperson Willie O’Dea has highlighted the intrusiveness of questions posed by Turas Nua.

Citizens have also challenged the demand on them to “comply and engage”.