1481. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Protection the process by which persons are selected to take part in the JobPath scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 35117/17 asked on 26 Jul 2017)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): I propose to take Questions Nos. 1480 to 1484, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy will be aware, JobPath is an employment activation service that supports people who are long-term unemployed and those most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to secure and sustain paid employment. The service is delivered by two companies, Seetec Ltd and Turas Nua Ltd.

At present there are over 450 full-time equivalent personal advisers (excluding administrative and support staff) working with both JobPath providers. The JobPath providers were required to set out their approach to recruitment and training of staff as part of the procurement process and the proposals submitted were taken into account in the assessment of tenders. As there are two providers the proposals differed somewhat but shared many common characteristics including a multi-stage recruitment process of interviews and assessment centres, and a requirement for candidates to demonstrate specific experience, skills and competencies in areas such as knowledge of local labour market conditions, recruitment practice, customer service, use of IT systems, rapport building and interpersonal skills, and problem solving.

Similarly the training programmes for staff within the JobPath providers share common characteristics including training modules of induction, skills/competency development, on the job mentoring/coaching and the opportunity for professional accreditation.

The employers of case officers/personal advisors, including the Department itself and the Local Employment Service providers do not specify particular qualifications as a pre-requisite to appointment to the role of case officer/personal advisor.

The JobPath Satisfaction Study, published earlier this year, shows that an overall majority of JobPath participants agreed that the staff are good at their jobs (95% for Seetec staff, 93% for Turas Nua staff).

The Department has built a number of checks into the JobPath including on-site inspections and independent surveys of client experience/satisfaction with the service provided by the JobPath contractors. Failure to demonstrate satisfactory performance can lead to the application of payment penalties and potentially to cancellation of contracts. These checks and measures are in addition to the performance control inherent in the payment by results nature of the contracts.

For the purposes of the JobPath service all long-term unemployed jobseekers on the Live Register are categorised into groups based on their duration of unemployment (e.g. 1- 2 years, 2 – 3 years etc.). Selection for referral to the JobPath provider is by means of stratified random sampling using these groupings; the objective being to ensure equity in selection and also that people referred to JobPath are a representative of the long term cohort on the Live Register.

In line with the Department’s policies on activation, jobseekers aged 62 and over are not subject to the commencement of mandatory activation measures. As such, jobseekers already over the age of 62 are exempt from selection for referral to JobPath.

However, where a jobseeker has been selected for any activation programme and reaches 62 years of age while on the programme they are expected to complete it.

The duration of a person’s jobseeker claim is recorded in terms of days of unemployment. Jobseeker Allowance claims are made up of continuous periods of unemployment. Any two such periods not separated by more than 52 weeks is considered to be the same continuous period of unemployment - this is known as linking the claim. Long-term jobseekers that may have left the live register to go into employment are still considered to be long-term if they reopen their claim within the 52 weeks. They retain certain entitlements (for example no waiting days and other supplemental benefits) and are available for selection for activation services including JobPath.

Customers who have not been in full time employment but are returning to Jobseeker’s payments from other departmental employment schemes, for example community employment and TÚS are also eligible for selection for JobPath.

Information is shared with these two companies to enable them to provide employment services on behalf of the Department. The purpose of sharing this information is to assist in the development of tailored personal progression plans for each jobseeker in order to support them back into paid employment. As part of the contracts for the provision of these services, there are strict obligations placed on these providers by the Department in terms of data protection. It should be noted that the contracts in place are governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Ireland and the courts of Ireland have exclusive jurisdiction over these contracts. The companies are also contractually required to register with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and are subject to the same provisions of data protection legislation as Departmental staff.

I hope this clarifies matters for the Deputy.