From top: Seetac/JobPath office in Cabra, Dublin; Eamonn Kelly
Last Monday, the Dáil debated the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill.
Arguing against the bill, which ‘provides for the publication of the names of people engaged in social welfare fraud’, Catherine Murphy of the Soc Dems addressed the case of a father of two referred to JobPath last year.
Eamonn Kelly writes:
Earlier this week in the Dáil, Catherine Murphy TD talked about JobPath and how a man was pressured by Seetec staff to attend sessions as part of the JobPath service.
But attendance at JobPath sessions conflicted with the times of genuine casual work the man already had, putting the job he already held in jeopardy.
The job was also being threatened, along with the reputation of the man, by Seetec staff contacting and badgering his employer to sign documents which would ensure that Seetec could claim the work the man already held, as being a ‘success’ for Seetec, for which the DSP would pay a commission once they received the documentation.
When the man, trying to protect the work he already had, refused to attend some of the sessions with Seetec, he was then pressured by Seetec staff in to to signing documents declaring he was present at the sessions he had not attended.
If he refused to sign the documents, Seetec would recommend to the DSP that the man’s already partial welfare payment be cut or stopped.
The man, realizing that he would be participating in a fraud by signing the documents, leaving himself open to prosecution, pointed this out, to which a Seetec staff member is reported to have said, “Don’t worry about it.”
The man was told that he had to sign the documents to ensure his welfare payment. The man signed the documents.
So here we have a clear case, cited in the Dáil, of Seetec staff using the threat of loss of payment for non-compliance with all requests they make, in order to pressure a Jobseeker into participating in a white-collar fraud.
A case that also shows Seetec staff interfering in a job already created, in order to claim it as their own and claim a commission. In doing so, directly threatening a job already in existence, while also revealing a jobseeker as a welfare dependent to an employer who may or may not find this acceptable.
In the case cited by Catherine Murphy the employer in question was sympathetic to the jobseeker. He also had become so fed up with being harassed by Seetec that he too signed forms which could then be used by Seetec to claim commissions from the DSP for a job they did not create, while also implicating the employer in the fraud.
The case was reported directly to the Taoiseach who described the incident as a ‘complaint’, and implied that it was an isolated incident. He then said that he couldn’t speak on individual cases and that it would be better to bring the matter up with the minister for social protection.
He cited the JobPath satisfaction survey, claiming that many people were ‘happy’ with JobPath, implying again that this particular ‘complaint’ was an isolated incident.
So, in the Dáil, a TD reported directly to the Taoiseach about abuse of powers by officials acting on behalf of the DSP, who were pressuring a Jobseeker into signing documents to support fraudulent claims and pressuring an employer to sign documents claiming that Seetec had created the job the employer had created, implicating both the employer and the Jobseeker in a fraud.
There has long been a suspicion that JobPath manufactures stats in order to prove its own worth and effectiveness, and here we have evidence of Seetec staff manufacturing false documentation to massage the stats to prove Seetec’s worth and effectiveness.
It’s fair then to question the actual job-creation results that they report, along with the satisfaction stats cited by the Taoiseach.
Were those figures manufactured too? Were they too acquired by threatening penalties for non-compliance?
Catherine Murphy’ suggests that the manner in which Seetec staff pressured the jobseeker into signing the documents, was routine. That they then pressured the employer to also sign documents to support their fraud, demonstrates an audaciousness that should be of concern.
The entire nature of the case cited by Catherine Murphy TD suggests that this is not just an isolated incident, or a ‘complaint’, but is the way JobPath is run.
The fact that JobPath is described as a service, and billed as such, must mean that it can be judged in terms of the type of service that it is delivering to the consumer.
Asking people under duress if they are ‘happy’ with the ‘service’ is not quite the same as assessing whether or not a service to the public is delivering what it claims to be delivering, or whether or not it is a service that is in any way damaging to the public.
A consumer and a private citizen being press-ganged into participating in a fraud can hardly be described as a very customer-friendly type of service.
In this regard, Catherine Murphy’s revelations have cast grave doubt on the value and credibility of the entire JobPath ‘service’.
Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer.