JobPath: The Great Social Protection Swindle

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From top: JobPath offices in Cabra, Dublin 7; Eamonn Kelly

 

Eamonn Kelly completes his investigation of employment activation schemes in Ireland.

Eamonn writes:

This is the last article in the series on JobPath. It’s quite long. I was going to split it into two more parts, but I think it’s best to just wrap it up in one long run in.

I want to thank everyone who read and commented on the articles, and those people who contacted me and who find themselves also in conflict with the petty injustices of the employment activation system.

I’d particularly like to thank Broadsheet for giving me the opportunity and the platform to tell this story, in a time when the mainstream media don’t seem to be particularly interested in hearing this type of thing.

“An experience makes its appearance only when it is being said. And unless it is said, it is, so to speak, non-existent.” Hannah Arendt

The implementation of JobPath began in 2015-2016, with the issuing of letters of “invitation” to tens of thousands of Jobseekers across Ireland, inviting them to attend employment activation meetings by the DSP.

These particular meetings, unbeknownst to the Jobseekers, would be staffed by Seetec/Turas Nua personnel, the two private companies sub-contracted by the DSP to deliver the service.

The letters of invitation were carefully worded to contain that peculiar mix of choice and obligation that is characteristic of the implementation of the system.

The letter of invitation begins by saying it is “…pleased to invite…” and ends with “Any refusal or failure, without good cause, to attend this information session or to subsequently participate in JobPath may result in your Jobseeker payment being reduced.”

Notice the careful threat in the use of the word “may”. And neither is it a threat of an outright cut, but of a reduction.

It is a sentence designed to unsettle. In later documentation, after registration of Jobseekers to one or other of the private companies has been acquired, the threat of outright cuts begins to appear in official documents issued by the private companies.

But the threat in the letter of invitation also specifically states that failure to participate in JobPath, without good cause, may result in cuts. I requested that the DSP quote me a law supporting this, and here is what I received from the JobPath Office at the DSP:

“The Social Welfare (Consolidated) Act 2005, Part 3, Ch. 2, Sect. 141(A) specifies that participation in activation meetings is mandatory for those in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance.”

That is the full extent that of the relevant act that was quoted to me, and it clearly states that attendance at information meetings is mandatory. It doesn’t say that participation on JobPath is mandatory.

I looked up the relevant act as quoted and, in a section 141(B), found a conditional clause from where the words “without good cause” are drawn, a phrase which features on all documentation pertaining to JobPath, indicating that it still has legal force.

This clause appears to indicate recognized circumstances in which attendance at activation meetings and participation on prescribed courses may be refused with “good cause”.

Such a good cause is listed under section 141(B) where courses of education or training need to be “considered appropriate having regard to the education, training and development needs of that person and his or her personal circumstances…”

A course deemed appropriate to a person’s education or training needs implies the recognition of courses inappropriate to a person’s education and training needs. It must follow that such courses may be refused, with good cause, as counter-productive to that person’s needs, requirements etc…

It appears however that attempts have been made in the implementation of JobPath to over-ride this legislation with opinions predicated on a discriminatory view of unemployed people.

In the same letter from the DSP this opinion was cited thus: “You have bene in continuous receipt of Jobseekers Allowance since…” [it was 14 months] “… and in order to continue to receive assistance you are required to attend the employment services provided, on the Department’s half, by Seetec.”

So, here it clearly states the belief that jobseekers have to participate with the service provided by the private companies, without exception, because they have been unemployed for over a year. This runs counter to the legislation, and seeks to replace it with an assertion. This, strictly speaking, is a dictate.

The last two Ministers of Social Protection offered similar stipulations running counter to the legislation. That people who have been unemployed for a certain period of time, regardless of cause, “should be open to preparing for and taking up employment in occupations or sectors outside of their preferred field of work”.

This applies to people from all backgrounds, trades and professions,” to quote the current Taoiseach, from a story in the Sligo News asking why qualified teachers were being assigned to the rudimentary JobPath “service”. :

But this assertion by the then minster of social protection is merely an opinion. If he intends it to be taken as a law, over-riding current legislation, it becomes a dictate, making the speaker, by definition, a dictator.

The opinion is also faulty, in that it is based on the false assumption that enough employment is being created in the economy to provide jobs for everyone, if not in their chosen field, well then, in other fields; which is clearly not the case. And so, the argument circles back to the same prejudicial charge underlying the entire scheme: that the unemployed create unemployment, which is a logical nonsense, particularly given how modern capitalism actually works, and that the unemployed must then be penalised for creating unemployment.

You Are Invited To…

The JobPath “service” itself doesn’t really appear to be about training, or retraining or education. There is ample anecdotal evidence that all these claims are empty, that the “service” is rudimentary and inadequate. In other words, it has all the appearances of a false front.

The real business of JobPath is in the registration process, acquiring signatures, for which money is changing hands, and through which people are being transferred out of the public welfare system into a private system run by companies whose background is primarily in prison services and rehabilitation. (See my article here  for a more detailed look at this aspect of the business of the private companies operating JobPath in Ireland.)

JobPath is not a service, as such, it is more like a portal through which the public systems are being gradually privatised.

The letter of invitation to JobPath was sent out on DSP headed paper to a random selection of Jobseekers who had been unemployed for a year or more.

The fact that no cognisance was taken of Jobseeker’s qualifications or credentials in this process was flagged as an equal opportunities consideration. It was, in reality, more like the deliberate official stripping of qualifications for the “crime” of being over 12 months unemployed, creating clean slates for the private companies to place in low grade employments to earn commission on each placement.

The headline on each letter reads, “Notice to Attend Information Session”, and begins, “We are pleased to inform you that you have been allocated a personal employment advisor…”

This gives the impression that an agreement is already in place between the Jobseeker and the private company. The next sentence then enhances the voluntary aspect.

“You are invited to attend an information session…”

There is no mention here of mandatory attendance, it is still an invitation. The letter goes on,

“The purpose of the meeting is to explain how the personal advisory service, which we are calling JobPath, will work, to provide details of the supports available to you and to allow you to ask questions about the service.”

Here again the idea that everything is already in place is reinforced, but that there is still an element of choice, a voluntary aspect.

The letter goes on to say that the jobseeker will meet representatives of the private companies, and will be “invited to an individual meeting with an employment advisor…”

It is during this one-on-one meeting that the Jobseeker will be invited to sign a form, following a brief interview concerned with employment goals.

This form, which is filled out by the advisor from answers given by the Jobseeker during the brief interview, is the Personal Progression Plan, for which the DSP will pay a fee. In real terms, it is a document transferring the Jobseeker from the responsibility of the DSP to the responsibility of the private companies.

Since this transfer has been accomplished with the “agreement” of the jobseeker, as evidenced by the signature or initial on the Personal Progression Plan, it is officially understood that the jobseeker has voluntarily agreed to this transfer; has, in essence, voluntarily enlisted the services of the private company to help them find work, and voluntarily left the protections offered by the DSP.

Once the “agreement” is signed it is not clear at what point the private company’s hold over the Jobseeker ends. JobPath itself lasts a year, and Minister Burton, when rolling out the scheme, said that Jobseekers would then be transferred back to the responsibility of the DSP after that year.

But the agreement on the Personal Progression Plan, the substance of which the Jobseeker is not informed of, clearly shows that the private companies have been empowered to influence the Jobseeker after that initial year. The duration of this continued influence is not at all clear.

Criminals

In November 2015, it was reported that a questionnaire Jobseekers were asked to fill out during the initial activation meeting, asked the Jobseeker did they expect to commit a criminal offence in the next six months.

No one knew what to make of this question. There were questions asked in the Dail about it, and it was eventually put aside as an oddity, maybe even some kind of clerical error. The DSP announced subsequently that the question had been withdrawn.

But this was no “accident”. It appears to be part of a deliberate strategy to equate welfare with criminality.

For instance, the odd parole-officer/parolee type relationship that is established between the advisor and the Jobseeker and which is reinforced by the right claimed by the company in the “agreement”, as we’ll see, to contact future employers and to ask how is the Jobseeker getting on.

Add to this the unremarked upon and unchallenged right of the private company employees to detain Jobseekers at their facilities, ostensibly job-seeking on computers provided by the private companies.

But for those people who have to attend these pointless sessions there is no doubt that these sessions feel like punitive detention periods, for the “crime” of being unemployed, with private company employees enjoying the right to extend or increase the duration and number of these periods of detention to gain the compliance of so-called “hard-cases”.

Now there may or may not be “hard cases”, but that must surely be entirely beside the point.
When I remarked on dangerous precedents in the first article in this series, this is one of them.

Because two private companies have somehow acquired the right to detain Irish citizens at their facilities for the perceived “crime”, it would appear, for being unemployed. No laws are quoted to validate or support this practice and, in general, most people seem to think it’s fine, including many of the people detained in the facilities.

I have since learned however, that the “crime” is not for being unemployed, it is for failing to honour an agreement to do certain things on the so-called “path” to employment.

The justification for “sanctions” is that the jobseeker has broken an agreement that they voluntarily entered into. The reality however, is much different. The jobseeker is tricked and threatened into signing the agreement, and is not informed of the substance of the agreement, or even that they have entered into an agreement.

This is where words like “invite” and “voluntary” and “agreed” are deliberately used to deceive, with a view to claiming later that the deceived individual was aware of the nature of the agreement they were entering into, and aware of all its implications.

Hadn’t they been “invited” to “voluntarily” agree? This is a cruel trick devised by an educated mind to be played upon uneducated people, in full awareness of the disadvantages that are being exploited, in order to cheat them out of a social welfare payment.

JobPath is all about the agreement as contained in the Personal Progression Plan. Everything else is window-dressing. The agreement is a document that surrenders the individual’s rights to the dictates of a private company, empowering that company to detain, deskill, downgrade, and earn commissions on placements in low-grade employments, all under the guise of “retraining” and “helping”.

On the question of the deliberate attempt to add a patina of criminality to welfare claimants, Fianna Fail’s Willy O’Dea asked Leo Varadkar, then Minster for Social Protection, his opinion concerning a case in Wicklow where a local woman, along with some of her neighbours, had been subjected to an interview in a private room designed to shame them in each other’s eyes for the “crime” of being unemployed. (This is in the same Sligo News story about the teachers linked above.)

The woman who reported the incident to Willie O’Dea was asked had she ever committed a criminal offence. O’Dea asked the minister, “Who dreamed up these questions?”

The now Taoiseach dodged the question by referring to the JobPath satisfaction survey, making it clear that all awkward questions pertaining to JobPath will now be deflected by reference to a survey whose questions are weighted to ensure high satisfaction ratings, making it possible for the government to claim that the unemployed, like the general public, also “approve” of JobPath.

This, as we saw earlier, is one of the planks to the successful implementation of the entire system, winning public approval for the system.

The report has since been released, in January 2017, and everyone is “satisfied”, surprise-surprise. The reported satisfaction ratings are not unlike Vladimir Putin’s reported approval ratings, which hover constantly around the 98% mark, with occasional fluctuations down to 97% for the sake of “realism” and up to 99% to demonstrate that the figure is not entirely static. T

he JobPath satisfaction figures, conducted by yet another private company drawing down public money for yet another questionable service, appear to be in the same political realm of self-serving statistical trickery. But even my talking about them has served their purpose as a distraction from the fact of the private interviews described by Willie O’Dea.

Agreement and Compliance

The success of the entire JobPath venture, and the entire employment activation venture as dreamed up by Matthew Oakley and others, depends on getting the jobseeker’s mark on the end of a form containing a concealed agreement, and then to ruthlessly hold them to these “agreements”.

It goes without saying, that to honour an agreement, one must first be aware that one is entering into an agreement. This was not the case with the Personal Progression Plan, where signatures were acquired by a combination of intimidation and deceit.

The meeting arranged by the DSP, to enable the private companies to acquire signatories to the agreements, seems itself to have been rigged to make signing documents even more routine and automatic.

As one participant pointed out, you “Sign in the building, Sign in the meeting, Sign the meeting outcomes form, Sign the personal progression plan, Sign the travel expenses, Sign out the meeting, Sign out the building…”

That’s lots of signing. Notice the Personal Progression Plan in there, slipped in with all the art of a pickpocket.

The intimidation is the deliberate verbal and documentary repetition of threat to cut income for “non-compliance”, this being intimated as meaning total obedience.

This tactic has a weird effect on many Irish people, rendering some Irish people servile and childish. I believe that this characteristic – which is perhaps peculiar to the Irish due to our history – is also being deliberately and knowingly exploited by officials.

Fight or Flight
The significance of what is happening here may have to be spelled out a bit, particularly for people who may assume that all welfare recipients are cheats and don’t really need the money, a pejorative view of the poor, actively encouraged by the present Taoiseach.

In the main, these people are poor and vulnerable and solely dependent on the allowance. To threaten to cut this allowance is to threaten their only source of income. It is a threat that causes fear, anxiety, sleepless nights and, it is believed by some, lonely suicides.

The significance of the fear generated in these people by this cruel system cannot be over-estimated. This type of deliberate delivery of stressors has a very real physical effect. It results in cortisol release, which, according to psychologists, affects thinking capacity, evoking fight or flight reactions.

So, ironically, officials threatening those people they have been given leave to discriminate against as “lazy” and/or “stupid”, will actually appear to be a bit “stupid” as a result of being threatened, seeming to confirm the initial prejudice of the official issuing the threat.

But these unfortunate people are literally momentarily stupefied by the rush of cortisol generated by the shock of being called criminals and at being threatened with poverty, and all that this entails, including homelessness.

And we all know in Ireland, the heartlessness towards the homeless that this government has exhibited. A heartlessness that has led some to believe that the government are knowingly using the fear of homelessness as a twisted strategy in an attempt to activate the property market into blowing up another delusionary property bubble.

To generate that particular fear, it is necessary to allow homelessness to happen. So, when an official threatens to cut the social protection allowance of a poor person, they are, in present-day Ireland, indirectly threatening them with homelessness, which is a very real condition.

Such threats are made, more often than not, by smug officials, often proud in themselves for having “a job”, who often make little effort to disguise their contempt for Jobseekers, seemingly oblivious to the fact that their own “job” depends entirely on the continued supply and processing of these people, who are apparently officially regarded as “social burdens” and “parasites”.

Peonage and the Magdalenes

The private companies, once they have acquired the signatures, apparently by any means possible, stand to earn commissions on placing people in jobs, without being required to match qualifications to job grade. It also appears to be assumed that the employees of the private companies are qualified to offer advice and guidance across a range of professions, even encompassing the arts and the sciences, without them ever once having to actually present their qualifications.

But it is in the area of commissions earned on placing people in jobs, regardless of job-grades – the DSP apparently facilitating this by withholding credentials and qualifications of Jobseekers ear-marked for transfer – that the system bears more than a passing resemblance to peonage, where a perceived debt to society is worked off.

Eerily, the system echoes the thinking behind Victorian work houses, and our own industrial schools and Magdalene Laundries. The attitude of the wider Irish community often seems as similarly judgmental as those older Irish communities were to the Magdalene women. Back then the perceived moral lapse that was to be worked off in service, was sexual moral “failure”.

Today, typically, the sin is perceived as economic moral failure. What is fascinating is that many of the judgmental and unforgiving attitudes of the last century appear to be still living in the present-day institutions, like fleas in an old mattress. Even in attitudes in the wider society there is often the sense that little has changed since the middle of the last century.

Like different groups have just moved into the same old roles, with the mainstream media now like a priesthood serving the bishopy main party politicians, and the silent penitent laity pretty much as they always were, deferring to authority and throwing stones at whichever “sinner” the authority identifies, in this case Jobseekers and welfare dependents.

The Agreement

This is the agreement Jobseekers are misled into signing.

“I declare that I will actively commit to job-search and other employment or education and training activities detailed in this Personal Progression Plan and agreed with the [company name] Employment Advisor and I understand that my Jobseeker’s Payment may be reduced or stopped completely if I refuse to cooperate with [company name] in its efforts to arrange employment, training or education opportunities for me.

“I understand that for the duration of this Personal Progression Plan, [company name] may contact me by phone or email or letter for an update on agreed actions and I understand that I must notify [company name] if I am no longer: Unemployed, Available for work, Fit for work or, Genuinely seeking work.

“I will notify [company name] immediately of any change, including financial, in my circumstances or those of my spouse/civil partner/cohabitant or dependents and I am aware that I could be prosecuted for making false declaration or withholding information.

“I have received the [company name] JobPath Client Information Pack, which contains details of the service statement.”

It seems clear from the wording of this agreement that some kind of legal transfer of responsibilities has occurred, putting Jobseekers onto the books of the private companies. It is not quite clear by the wording how long these “agreements” remain in force.

But since this is part of a wider goal to privatise the welfare system, it may turn out that these “agreements” will sooner or later be declared indefinite.

But the over-riding and important point here is that people are not made aware that they are entering into such a binding agreement. They are told it is “routine”. That it is a standard data protection declaration. Or, they are told nothing at all, but simply reminded that failure to comply with all requests may result in a reduction of their income.

Another part of the form deals with data protection, referencing the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005, and beneath that, a consent declaration that includes the following:

“Should I find employment while I am participating on the JobPath programme, I give my consent for [company name] or a representative of the Department of Social protection to contact my employer so that details of my employment can be confirmed. I understand that any information provided by the employer to [company name] may be shared with the Department of Social Protection.”

This consent has led to instances where people who were compelled to register with one or other of the private companies and who then found jobs, or were offered jobs they had already been interviewed for, suddenly found representatives of the private companies contacting their new employers and claiming this as a successful outcome for which they could then claim a commission from the DSP.

These approaches are, by all accounts, ruthless, and are entirely careless of the damage such an intrusion may cause to the credibility of the Jobseeker in the eyes of the new employer.

Diversions

The letter of “invitation” from the DSP closes with a sentence that directs the jobseeker to consult the private companies with any queries they may have, via a free-phone number.

This all but completes the transfer, the DSP essentially washing their hands of the Jobseekers they have randomly chosen to be set-up in fake information meetings to be tricked into signing a what appears to be a binding contract with a private company who stand to profit from, what appears to be, their deliberately degraded status.

This letter of “invitation” remember was written before any registration had taken place, and is clearly designed to confuse and to deceive individual Jobseekers into signing a contract with a private company, without ever being made aware that they are signing a contract.

Since these signatures are being acquired by intimidation and deceit; intimidation in the deliberate evoking of fear by threatening to cut income, and deceit in the manner in which Jobseekers are deliberately misled, as described, and since the goal of this deceit is profit for the DSP/Government in potential savings in welfare supports, and profit for the private companies in terms of the potential commissions earned on job placements, the fees for the signatures themselves and the public monies they receive for provision of a “service”.

There are other advantages too for the private companies which may accrue from having authority over so many people perceived as being vulnerable. In time, the companies may be able to match the people they have on their books with other private helping services they offer, in exchange for public funding.

In this way, Public funding can be gradually drained from existing public agencies, magically creating more vulnerable unemployed people in need of help from the services being offered by the private companies. This is the business model that has accelerated the prison populations in the United States, made up primarily of poor people. It is, in a sense, capitalism beginning to eat its young.

Swindle

Considering the potential profits for the private companies with the acquisition of these signatures, and considering the manner in which the signatures are acquired, this is, by definition, a swindle. I don’t use that term lightly. I have tried other words to describe what has occurred and is occurring, but “swindle” is the only word that most accurately describes what is happening.

This swindle being perpetrated against a poor minority, who may or may not “deserve” to be swindled, depending on your political stance, has far wider implications than simply individual Jobseekers, losing their “dole”.

Since the end political goal of this swindle is to initiate a privatisation of all or parts of the welfare system, and since this is a Republic, where all citizens stand equal, in theory anyway, and where all properties are properties of the Republic; a swindle of this nature perpetrated against one citizen, particularly a swindle with a broader goal to transfer ownership of public properties to the private sector, is also a swindle against all the citizens.

By this definition, given the manner in which the signatures were and are being gathered for the registrations to JobPath, and given the broader goals and financial incentives of these orchestrated deceits, this is arguably, by extension, a swindle being perpetrated against the Republic by its own government, in collusion with foreign private companies.

This throws an entirely new light on the welfare cheats campaign, which now seems to be an attempt to publicly discredit the initial targets of this swindle.

Welcome to Gulag Ireland

The Government’s “strategy” for tackling the unemployed crisis is to abdicate all responsibility, farming the problem out to private interests and handing private companies the right to virtually enslave anyone who happens to have been over a year unemployed, ignoring the fact that unemployment is being caused – some say, being actively created – by the vagaries of gush-up capitalism, and, in the case of Ireland, by banking and political mismanagement during and after the financial crisis of 2008.

These private companies have the power now to detain citizens at their facilities and to turn a profit from deskilling qualified professionals and putting them to work in low grade jobs.
This seems to me to be a waste of resources for the sake of appearances.

The Irish government ought to come clean, keep the money they are paying to these companies, and simply build labour camps, returning whatever profits can be made from the camps back to the state. The building of the camps would create much-needed construction jobs, and when they’re done, there would be plenty of available accommodation at last to house the homeless.

Many problems would be immediately solved. No one sleeping on the streets, no one manifestly unemployed, a minimal welfare bill, and the country maybe even back in profit. Bord Failte could even launch a campaign for new tourism, to sell the idea of Ireland being a light to the world by being so honest in how it deals with social problems, and how unafraid we are to do the hard thing.

Maybe something snappy like, Welcome to Gulag Ireland, Bringing a New Honesty to Slavery.

History, And the Way She Might Look at You

The entire disreputable JobPath system is a British import. I say this now, not with some green flag waving, or with any animosity towards Britain, but this is not Britain, where an aristocratic elite holds sway above a rigid class system. This is a Republic, fought and died for, rather than bought and paid for, (though that might be true too), where all have equal say, (in theory anyway, if we’d only say it), regardless of who we might owe money to. But I couldn’t help noticing when researching this story, the startling historical irony that this punitive system was put in place – complete with latter-day arse-kicking enforcers, like economic black-and-tans – just in time for the centenary of the 1916 rebellion. If you wrote such a brilliantly matched thematic coincidence into a fiction, people wouldn’t swallow it. They’d say, “Ah, here now…” and walk away shaking their heads and grinning.

Endgame
In late 2016, before he left office, President Obama said that within twenty years, congress would have to realistically discuss the introduction of a universal Basic Income. The same idea was put forward by Martin Luther King Jr in 1967 in the final chapter of his final book, as being the only lasting solution to poverty and boom and bust economics. Basic Income was to be his next major campaign.

And here we are again, and no one seems to realize that the alternative to supporting the poor is too unimaginable to consider. This is why the Nazis believed that sometime in the future their inhuman policies would come to be regarded as “courageous”, in that they believed it took courage to deliberately orchestrate a human cull. We appear to be walking blind into the same deadly dilemma. At the moment, our approach is the penguin approach. Every day, before going in the water, the penguins jostle and jostle and a few of them fall in the water and the waiting predator pounces. Once the predator is fed, it is safe for the other penguins to go into the water.

This is the manner in which today’s human cull is being conducted. People are being jostled out of the system into poverty and despair and self-destruction.

Every country appears to now have its champion of the new “necessary” cruelties. Here in Ireland, a man born to privilege, now Taoiseach, smilingly champions the process of survival of the economic fittest, mainly because he likely has absolutely no personal conception of poverty.

Once you put capitalist economic requirements aside, and the underpinning Calvinist ideas that inform its work-or-die ethic, problems like unemployment and homelessness can be solved overnight.

To solve homelessness, you give the homeless homes. It’s that simple. It has been done in experiments. It works. And surprisingly, people seen as alcoholics, once given a home, do things like quitting the drink, or bringing their dinking back to sociable intake, because the despair of homelessness has been lifted.

Comedian George Carlin once asked, “Have you ever heard of the war on homelessness? No. Because there isn’t one. There’s a War on Drugs, a War on Terror, a War on Obesity…” And he goes on to list all the so-called wars, revealing most of them as serving power or capital in some way. Maybe it’s time there was a war on homelessness.

It’s similar with unemployment. Pay the unemployed enough to live on and you put cash back in the economy and create the potential for grassroots economic growth.

We have to put aside these medieval punitive ideas about work equating to earned survival. These antiquated ideas are made a nonsense of by advancing technology, by the usury at the heart of modern capitalism and by the environmental urgency to cut back on capitalism’s demand for constant growth.

The actor, James Cromwell, who was recently jailed for joining a sit-down protest against fracking, described modern capitalism as a cancer. It is difficult to argue against this when you begin to realize that capitalism in its current insatiable form demands the destruction of people, animals, the environment and ultimately the Earth for its own continued survival.

Each small battle being waged against it, like the one I have described here, focused on the wrong-headed issue of employment activation, each seem rather trivial in their own small way, but taken together are part of a bigger picture.

Seeing the bigger picture requires that the majority of people accept first that there is a bigger picture to be seen, and that each small skirmish, whether it be fracking or employment activation or the torturing of the homeless in the interest of activating the property market, are all aspects of the same big picture: the exploitation of everything, including one another, in the interests of capital investments.

The only license that is required by power to take the liberties it is taking, is that the majority of people “approve”. All it takes to begin to change this picture is to “disapprove”, however quietly. Like that scene in Fawlty Towers where Basil almost has all the guests bullied into silence after complaints have been made, until one guest says, “I’m not happy…” And from that one quiet voice of dissent the whole lie begins to unravel.

Afterword

I’m an arts practitioner. A dramatist, short story writer and sometime musician. The reason why I started writing about JobPath is because I, and people I know in the arts, were officially informed that everything we stood for – in my case, over 30 years’ experience and training – was all now irrelevant in the name of austerity.

Not only that, we were also smeared as burdens on the state and held up by the authorities as objects of contempt; scapegoats, I came to believe, for the elite’s mismanagement of the nation’s affairs. Mismanagement that caused us all to be dropped into this mess of debt and recrimination.

My officially decreed “irrelevant” qualifications included professional study and experience in writing, across several media, and an honours degree in Sociology/Politics, where I specialised in my degree year in political philosophy. There I became familiar with the work of, among others, Hannah Arendt who I’ve quoted at the top of this article. I’ll repeat the quote to save you the bother of scrolling:

“An experience makes its appearance only when it is being said. And unless it is said, it is, so to speak, non-existent.”

That quote kept me focused and was my inspiration as I set out to speak up the existence of this ongoing injustice happening on our doorsteps, and, on a personal note, to attempt to demonstrate, if you’ll pardon my show of pride, how relevant my officially decreed “irrelevant” qualifications might actually be in a real-world scenario.

These articles have been my attempt to bring into conscious existence the unhappy and nullifying reality so many people are experiencing as objects and unwilling commodities of the JobPath system.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer.

Pic: Rabble.ie

Previously: JobPath And Class Discrimination

JobPath And The Reality Of Employment Activation

 

74 thoughts on “JobPath: The Great Social Protection Swindle

  1. The-bag

    I did some work with Turas Nua last year. I have no stake in the game but I thought they were a fantastic agency, all working very hard to secure employment opportunities for their, as they call them, customers. I spoke with the customers and the employers who availed of the service – everyone was very happy.
    It’s my understanding that literally thousands of people have found employment through JobPath. This article seems very negative for no discernible reason.

    Reply
    1. EK

      Just to say that I suspect the first comment there is from a vested interest. Jimmy James further down this thread said he’s seen this type of whitewash comment elsewhere. He said, “The first post is a paid copy & paste shill post – elements of it can be found elsewhere on boards .ie etc..”

      Reply
      1. Joe Small

        You’re damned either way here if you have something positive to say about JobPath. If you don’t have personal experience, then you don’t know what you’re talking about and if you do then you’re a corporate shill who is bought and paid for. Obviously only negative views are legitimate when it comes to government policies.

        Reply
      1. Frilly Keane

        fair enough
        I don’t care whether I Can or Not

        its whether I Will or Not
        is what I’m faced with

        and fortunately its never
        I have ta

        Reply
  2. Grace

    Oh god could you not just put the start of these long pieces on the front page, with a link to the rest of it?? My head is wrecked scrolling down on a phone, to find the cat pics and other fun stuff.

    Reply
  3. Jocky

    “These private companies have the power now to detain citizens at their facilities and to turn a profit from deskilling qualified professionals and putting them to work in low grade jobs.”

    The classic “this job is beneath me” approach. I hope these guys make your life hell.

    Reply
  4. Steph Pinker

    Eamonn, this is one of the most salient and well written articles I’ve ever read on BS, well done; I haven’t read any of your other submissions yet, but I will – thank you.

    Reply
  5. Paul

    A trifle long the article was but apart from that it was an excellent piece of work. I myself have gone through the sham of a programme which I believe is a disgraceful was of public money. The government seems to follow everything that the British do, so we can expect a room tax next and a purge on the disabled population requiring them to either work or die.

    Reply
  6. Andrew

    You have an arts degree and experience in the area and can’t find work or make a living with these qualifications and experience. Therefore you shouldn’t be expected to work at all? Is that it?
    I also have an arts degree and experience in the area and found myself in the same situation.
    I realised I couldn’t support myself with those qualifications and end experience alone. So I did another degree, worked in many jobs to pay my way through it and qualified in another sector in which I am now working.
    If I write a book in my spare time and it sells, then great, but that is unlikely, meanwhile life goes on.
    I never expected other workers to support me indefinitely and if there was work available I’d do it.
    I’m not sure why the author thinks there are jobs beneath him and why he expects others to pay his way.

    Reply
    1. EK

      I made too many points in the body of the argument for you not too have noticed, so I can only assume you didn’t read the middle, just the intro and conclusion. It’s an old college ruse. Lots of people who regard degrees as tickets to the job market do that, and deliver a rote answer. And it works! it’s one of the ways in which the capitalist system has hollowed out the meaning of education. But here’s a question for you. how come one degree wasn’t good enough for you to get a paying job?

      Reply
      1. Andrew

        Are you seriously asking why my arts degree wasn’t good enough to get a job?
        It;s just the market no more than that. My ‘skills’ and qualification wasn’t/isn’t in demand.
        That’s just the reality.
        No more than that.

        Reply
        1. Tabloid Rag

          Maybe the fact you have zero interpersonal, team building or leadership skills made you unemployable? Would appear so from your lengthy, redundant and irrelevant posts.

          Reply
          1. Frilly Keane

            oh you’re good

            not the best
            not quite one of the all time greats
            but worthy of a should out nonetheless

      2. Andrew

        Eamonn you’re not half as smart as you think you are. I read all of your articles fully.I appreciate that you feel strongly, that your rights are being eroded and disagree with private companies being granted; what you see as extraordinary powers by the state.
        However the bottom line is, there are jobs to be had, a lot aren’t ideal and were not what I was qualified to do, but I could not have survived without doing a lot of hard jobs for little money. I knew however, it wouldn’t be forever and so it turned out.
        There wee no jobs in what I was qualified to do, that’s regrettable but it’s just reality. I can force anyone to create them for me.The alternative is to create something someone will pay something for.
        You can take or leave what I have written and I wish you luck.

        Reply
        1. EK

          Everything I’ve argued rejects what you have written, before you even wrote it. You’re just holding the line on the initial prejudice that I was challenging, and missing the point of the wider argument. It’s not about jobs, it’s about resources in a finite system. “Jobs” is an excuse for power to exert its muscle. This is why I believe you didn’t read the article. Either that or you’re working in the system that I’m criticizing, the one that calls people like me a fraud and is, as I have shown, a fraud itself. If you think my argument is at fault, do a counter-argument, but do not turn that same old stone-wall “there’s jobs out there” prejudice back on me. I’ve demonstrated the falsity of that position. That’s the whole point of the argument.

          Reply
          1. Rob_G

            Eamonn, I’m sorry to hear that you have had a rough time of it, but to be blunt: the world doesn’t owe you a living, and it is unfair for for you to expect taxpayers to act as patron while you pursue a career in the arts at your leisure. This series of articles has only served to convince me that JobPath is a good idea, and that its existence is necessitated by people such as yourself who feel they have a God-given entitlement to a job in their chosen (extremely competitive) profession.

            That being said, I wish you all the best, and I hope things pick up for you soon.

            Rob.

          2. Tabloid Rag

            This response from Rob has to be one of the dumbest I’ve ever read on this site.
            I particularly refer to the ‘hope it all works out for you’ ingratiating and insincere epistle.

          3. Rob_G

            @ Tabloid

            Whatever.

            There will never be enough jobs as professional writers/artists for every single person that wishes to work in this industry – it was ever thus. Even the most understanding, competent functionaries in the world can’t change that fundamental truth: some people who wish to work at these jobs will be (i) obliged to either work at something else, or (ii) claim social welfare for a significant portion of their lives.

            The creation of JobPath and other activation schemes is an acknowledgement by society that (ii) is a bad idea.

          4. Tabloid Rag

            @ Rob

            Did Mr Kelly provide any evidence in his article to show he is exclusively seeking work only in the arts sector?

            Or even that he is out of work at all?

            Ironically you leaped to the default behaviour of the troglodytes to whom Mr Kelly refers, ‘naming and shaming’

          5. Increasing Displacement

            Guy who gets arts degree congratulates himself on getting another.

            That’s what this prat Rob_G has to say, and that is all.

          6. Rob_G

            @ Tabloid

            He seems to imply it in his final paragraphs.

            Anyway, the industry isn’t important, it could be any profession. I think that the state should intervene in some way to prevent people languishing for year after on the dole – for the good of the person, as well as society as a whole.

          7. Tabloid Rag

            @ Rob

            At 8:53 this morning the industry was important enough for you to write:

            “the world doesn’t owe you a living, and it is unfair for for you to expect taxpayers to act as patron while you pursue a career in the arts at your leisure”

            That being said, I wish you all the best, and I hope things pick up for you soon.

          8. Rob_G

            Indeed you are right; the maxim can be simplified as

            “the world doesn’t owe you a living, and it is unfair for for you to expect taxpayers to act as patron while you pursue a career in[chosen profession] at your leisure”

          9. Rob_G

            Having failed to refute any of the points I made, Tabloid resorts to the classic ‘ur gay’ gambit – well done you.

          10. I'm "alright" Jack. Mad Jack is on annual leave.

            You appear much more like a cuck actually Rob

          11. Rob_G

            I see that so far on this thread you have called someone a ‘ball ox’, and someone else a ‘cuck’, so I can see how Tabloid calling me a gaybo would practically be Voltaire by comparison.

          12. Lord Snowflakee

            Can you point out where Tabloid called you a ‘gaybo’ Rob? I can’t see it.

            Incidentally many heterosexuals of my acquaintance are ardent users of butt plugs, so it’s not just you who enjoys it, you no longer have to protect your dark secret.

            Reminiscent of how you were saying at 8:53 that Mr Kelly was a loafer artist sucking on your teats, similarly your aspiration to be labelled gay may be a projection.

          13. Rob_G

            @ Lord – maybe you’re right, and maybe he was inferring that I use a buttplug for some other reason; perhaps he will be so good to to clarify.

            Incidentally many heterosexuals of my acquaintance are ardent users of butt plugs” – I am genuinely delighted for them.

            Reminiscent of how you were saying at 8:53 that Mr Kelly was a loafer artist sucking on your teats, similarly your aspiration to be labelled gay may be a projection

            – hang on; first you call me up on daring to interpret that Tabloid’s buttplug comment == sugesting I was gay, and then you take something I said and put a huge big interpretation on it of your own? Let’s try and be consistent, shall we.

  7. Dept of Social Penitance

    Friend was ‘invited’ to JobPath but didn’t go b/c he didn’t realise it was a ‘compulsory’ invitation. Later got a letter telling him the date he needed to come in and sign on. He attended that meeting but when he arrived was told he was no longer being ‘managed’ by Intreo because he was on JobPath now, despite never attending their meeting or signing anything. A while later he got a phonecall at 7.30am from someone in Intreo who, almost shouting down the phone, told him his payment had immediately been suspended for review and that he had to ‘talk to him about something’ and to ‘come into the office immediately’, and then hung up without giving him a name or number to call, or any further information. My friend was actually so stressed and anxious about the whole situation and how he had been treated that he just cancelled his claim altogether and borrowed from his parents until he found a job shortly after.

    Not only does the Dept of Social Protection treat the unemployed as criminals, they treat them as worthless people undeserving of common courtesy or respect. I sincerely hope I never find myself in circumstances where I would need to deal with them.

    Reply
  8. JIMMYJAMES

    The first post is a paid copy & paste shill post – elements of it can be found elsewhere on boards .ie etc..

    Reply
  9. JIMMYJAMES

    For anyone who actually gives a fly’n f about handing their personal information to a private co, refuse to sign any agreement. Quote snippets of the relevant legislation to the unskilled employees at seetec.. & again to the dps if challenged. The last thing they will want is legal hurdles that may derail public quiet on the scheme. Cases were brought against the uk parent company in the eu courts of human rights…

    Reply
  10. Rose Madder

    Thank you Eamonn. You have articulated so well the oppressive system that is JobPath and how it punishes those already suffering poverty and low self esteem. There is a future ahead for all of us where machines and robots will be used to do most of the work and be far more cost effective for the rich 1% than using human labour; there won’t be jobs for most people. Then, you who are fortunate to have jobs now and are unsympathetic to those who don’t, can eat your words and feel the despair and anxiety that comes with it. They will need big asylums/prisons then to lock us all up or maybe they will just gas us and be rid of all us useless people who have no jobs and no future in a capitalist world!

    Reply
  11. Tabloid Rag

    A few points to add to your comprehensive and worthy article Eamonn.

    First, the government generally is considered to be poor at outsourcing and has been rapped on the knuckles for this by the OECD recently. Even though the same report showed no real benefit in terms of efficiency or productivity gains by outsourcing to date, mostly because most public sector managers actually hate it.

    When the IMF/EU troika signed off on Ireland’s “progress report” following their bollock-clenching exercise of the ordinary Irish person, a significant ‘must do better’ was ticked in alongside the ‘job market activation measures’, or in other words, forcing the poor and unemployed to f off and die or better still, just take them off official unemployed stats. In theory its a good idea to sort of cajole the long term unemployed to try and find work as employers and in particular parasitical, know nothing recruiters display clear bias about CV gaps.

    The problem is as you are probably experiencing is that the functionaries ’employed’ in these roles whether they work for Intreo or one of the parasite UK firms, know nothing themselves about the area, about the real struggled of re-educating yourelf, or making the best choices in your retraiining or upskilling. I worked in the PS for a period recently and the level of managerial competence was extraordinarily low, even in terms of basic knowledge, or even a fundamental minimum level of curiosity about your duties or how the service should be provided to the public. The issues here are fundamental and as other commenters note, the essence of this type of scheme is to create a PR story or some nonsense the likes of a Joan Burton or Leo Varadkar can get up and boast about in the Dáil (i.e. people who haven’t had to do a days work in years).

    Reply
  12. Joe Small

    I’m hearing lots of criticism but no actual positive proposals of a better, proven system for getting people into jobs.

    Reply
    1. Cian

      This issue isn’t getting people jobs, it’s about allowing people continue to claim job seekers indefinitely – even if they (a) won’t take a job that they are skilled in, or (b) won’t reskill to a get a job in a new area.

      Reply
      1. Tabloid Rag

        The issue is about foreign dung beetles parasiting themselves off the most vulnerable, desperate and needy and their preposterous apologists and Amen chorus.

        Reply
        1. Rob_G

          Starts off seeming sensible, and then ends up going a bit 1930s on us – Tabloid Rag, ladies and gentlemen.

          Reply
          1. Tabloid Rag

            @ Rob

            At least one of us is going in the right direction.

            For example at 8:53 this morning you wrote to Mr Kelly:

            “the world doesn’t owe you a living, and it is unfair for for you to expect taxpayers to act as patron while you pursue a career in the arts at your leisure”

            But now you’re saying the industry isn’t “important” and moreover you just feel something must be done (WONT SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!) to protect the poor little dears ‘languishing’ all the dole and SAVE SOCIETY ITSELF>

            Who’s hysterical?

            That being said, I wish you all the best, and I hope things pick up for you soon.

      2. Declan.

        Are u employed or unemployed, if u are employed and paying PAYE, PRSI and USC, u are happy that your hard earned cash is going towards paying people who have no intention of doing a days work, that what the editor seems to want.
        I have been with Seetec 9 months, i have no problem been with them, the have a fella who companies contact when they have vacancies so i hope that i GET a job through Seetec. Just today i will be applying for a job in a company who are taking up 30 people, NONE of these jobs was made public, if i was not with Seeec i would not have heard of them

        Reply
    2. EK

      Basic Income was one of the positive proposals put forward in the article. Many people can’t see this because they’re still focused on the concept of “a job”. Apart from that proposal, a proven system for getting people into jobs is employment creation, a task the government, with JobPath, has passed onto the unemployed, under pain of immiseration for failure. Imagine if government ministers were penalized with total cuts to income and pensions for failing to create employment within a given time frame. You’d see a different government then. But that’s what this government has done with the unemployed, abdicating on their own responsibility to do something about employment creation, and delegating the task to the unemployed. A proven system for getting people into jobs, is to have jobs to get them into. The first question is, who’s responsibility is that? The deeper question is – the core of the article – that it may be time to rethink the concept of jobs, in the interests of the environment and in the recognition of the effects that advancing technology and late stage capitalism are having on the concept of “the job”.

      Reply
  13. AndrewSB49

    This post needs to be spread far and wide, particularly to TDs not including Fine Gael and the Party founded by James Connolly as they instigated this demonisation and further excoriation of the poor and the unemployed.

    Reply
  14. Jake38

    I wonder what the thousands of hard working immigrants employed in this country would make of this article? If they had time to read it.

    Reply
    1. Tabloid Rag

      Did Mr Kelly provide any evidence in his article to show he is exclusively seeking work only in the arts sector?

      Or even that he is out of work at all?

      Ironically you leaped to the default behaviour of the troglodytes to whom Mr Kelly refers, ‘naming and shaming’

      Reply
  15. William Taylor

    An excellent piece on how people are exploited. Nobody should be force d to work for SP support. SP programmes provide cheap exploitative labour for rich companies and public bodies. If they want workers, pay them the standrad wage/salary and that would help people seeking genuine productive emloyment and enrich their lives. We must end exploitation when bankers and financiers were bailed out despite their greed and corruption kust like the Nama men. Peopel have rights and pay much in indirect tax whilst multi-nationals pay no tax.

    Reply
  16. lilesosanne

    A few comments her on JobPath providers sorting training for people. Training/education is only allowed and supported if you have an offer of a job in writing ie you have a job starting next Monday but need to update your Safepass. There is absolutely no support for filling skills gaps that are stopping you applying for more/different or new areas of work. I’m in this position now, have personally identified my skills gap and education need, sourced the course etc and now been told no because there is no definate job at the end of it. The course would not stop me from looking for work, or even taking up a job. But the answer is NO. Just as the answer to taking up a part time job that would give me great work experience in the area I need to move to, is NO. Just as is the answer to applying for certain DSP funded jobs NO. You are excluded from all the DSP job supports while you are on JobPath, it is a 30 hour minimum job a week or no job, a full time student grant funded education course or no education. It is do the non certified training that they offer, that does not recognise pre learning and experience or have your money cut. JobPath is actively stopping me working and getting the education that I need to widen my scope of work opportunities.

    Reply
  17. Rose Madder

    As an artist, most of our work is project based, exhibitions, installations lasting a short space of time as part of events and festivals and usually resulting in no money. The years in college obtaining fine art degrees and masters are followed by years of sending proposals and submissions to even get seen and more years before anyone is going to pay you for an exhibition of your work in a public space. JobPath does not consider any of this worthwhile it seems and will cut off your payments if it finds you participating in any of these unpaid creative activities as you must be available for work 6 days a week and actively pursuing a job that pays money. I ask you, does the government have any idea about the career path of an artist? They are quick to boast about the wonderful arts culture in Ireland and use us for tourist bait and as a sticking plaster in community arts but refuse us a basic income so we can sanely perfect our skills and enrich our culture. JobPath is just adding to the increasing mental health issues in Ireland that is due to austerity, poverty and homelessness. The government and Varadker are using vulnerable people for political gains and it is as low as it gets to distract eyes of bankers and corporate cheaters and blame the poor for their own poverty.

    Reply
  18. Billybob

    “It becomes a dictate, making the speaker, by definition, a dictator”

    This is specious reasoning

    Reply
  19. Donn

    I am a recent graduate having studied for four years. A month after completing my study I received that letter. Does that deem me unemployed for the stipulated 12 months? I was also told that I was selected at random. This was a transparent nonsense the moment it was mentioned. An anecdote: An employer was looking to fill a position. This employer received 400 applications. Out if that number only a fraction were genuine as the majority were applying on the basis of the stipulation of applying for at least one job a week. Pure window dressing to show a proactive approach to unemployment.

    Reply
  20. im alright jack

    I love the the way the truth hurts the self-righteous and it is so true ” the fleas are still in the old mattress”. The real parasites are the sheep who follow the crowd for financail gain, they welcome and kiss the ass of the very people that ruined the country with open arms in their daily lives as they did the religious . These sheep do not like to hear that the likes of them, and most likely thier decendants watched on as people suffered and died, preferring to point and pinch thier noses at the tiny bit less well off , if it was up to these lot, the laundries would be re-opened if it saved them a cent on thier weeks shopping . it is disgusting but not new that anyone would try to put some one down for pointing out the truth.

    Reply

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