30. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if failure to sign a personal progression plan with Seetec is used by deciding officers as a sole reason to penalise a participant’s social protection payment. (Question 19301/18 asked on 03 May 2018)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Penalty rates are a legal provision within the Jobseeker schemes to ensure that the Department can achieve compliance with Government Activation Policy as stated in Pathways to Work. Legislation provides that sanctions / penalties in the form of reduced payments may be imposed by the Department’s Deciding Officers where recipients of jobseeker payments fail, without good cause, to comply with activation measures. Activation measures include the requirement to attend group information meetings, and / or individual meetings for the purpose of assessing a person’s education, training or development needs, and / or availing of suitable education, training or development opportunities, or specified employment programmes, which are considered appropriate to a person’s circumstances. Reduced rates are only applied where a jobseeker fails, without good cause, to engage as requested with the Department’s employment services including contracted services, having received at least two warnings. Refusal to sign a Personal Progression Plan would not be the sole reason for the application of a penalty rate. Refusal to sign and also failure to agree an action plan with their Case Officer/JobPath Provider, without good cause, will incur a penalty rate as outlined in SW legislation. The Penalty Rate may be lifted at any time if the person engages in the activation process.

The Jobseeker can appeal the Deciding Officer’s decision for reduced rate penalties and for a 9 week disqualification, through the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).