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Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí (Atógáil) - Leaders' Questions (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy] The Taoiseach will allow families such as those on North Circular Road to continue to face homelessness and he will turn a blind eye to it while the profits of landlords shoot through the roof.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We think the Deputy's Bill is too extreme and designed more for publicity than policy as is so often-----

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy A minute ago, the Taoiseach said he had not read it yet.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I did not say that. As is so often the case with things brought forward by People Before Profit and Solidarity-----

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Every homeless organisation has called for this.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----it is too extreme.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald It is not extreme.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Some landlords are abusive and bad but most landlords are just people renting out a property that they own, providing somewhere for people to live and we should not demonise landlords-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett They must be very extreme in Germany and most of Europe.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----because we need people to rent out their properties. A reason that we are facing the problem we currently face is lack of supply. People are not willing to enter the rental market any more to rent out properties or people are selling up because they do not want to be landlords any more. We have to bear that in mind and balance the rights of tenants with the rights of landlords. Legislation that states that somebody cannot move back into the house that he or she owns-----

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy That person can but has to compensate.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger It does not say that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The legislation affects a property one bought ten or 20 years ago to accommodate one's kid in college, and states that one cannot live in a house that one owns-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It does not say that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----and that one cannot accommodate one's own family in a house that one owns.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald It states that one cannot move people out and leave them homeless.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger The Taoiseach is totally disingenuous.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It does not say that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar If one is forced to sell the property and needs the money for some other reason, perhaps to pay medical bills for a relative, the fact that one cannot sell it is too extreme.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett One can sell it with the tenant.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We will do four things. We will legislate for a rent register so that people know the rents being paid by others in their area; we will extend the notices to quit so that people have more time to find a new home to live in or rent; we will properly define in law what substantial renovation is or is not; and we will strengthen the powers of enforcement for the Residential Tenancies Board.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe What about affordable housing?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I guarantee that the left wing forces in this House will vote against those protections.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I call Deputy Pringle.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Why would we do that?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Will Solidarity-People Before Profit vote for our Bill or not? The Deputies will not say.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We have had that question. Can we go ahead with Deputy Pringle's, please?

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle As the Taoiseach knows, 39,603 jobseekers were referred to JobPath in the period from July 2015 to June 2016. In those two years, 8,340 people gained employment, a success rate of 25%. Those who gained full-time employment amounted to 6,111 people or 18% of the total figure, while those who gained part-time employment made up 4% of the total. When one looks closely and measures the chances of someone gaining full-time employment under JobPath as opposed to of their own accord, the numbers are very interesting. The most recent figures for 2016 show that JobPath only helped a further 2% of individuals to gain full-time employment. Figures for people who gain part-time work improve. Part-time work is often seasonal, precarious and has low wages. The State often helps to subsidise income through the family income supplement, part-time jobseeker's benefit and jobseeker's allowance. Why do we continue to pay a private company which has only served to continue the situation of income insecurity for people who the State must subsidise anyway?

  I would like to read an excerpt from a letter I was given in Donegal about a person's experience with a company, People 1st. He is so intimidated by the service that he wishes to remain anonymous. It reads:

I am a client of People 1st and I have found my time there to be a very difficult one. The advisors put a lot of pressure on me. I feel extremely stressed, and made feel worthless. I try very hard to find employment but I can’t seem to get any work. I find my advisor to be very disrespectful, discouraging and not understanding of my circumstances. Although I have a third level qualification my advisor seems to put across that I am lazy. I have approached the Manager on a few occasions, regarding my complaints however it is not dealt with.

  The letter aptly describes the direct consequences privatisation of our State services is having on vulnerable people across the country. The profit-driven model of these private companies applies unnecessary pressure to people. This should be treated as a State service, yet the Government paid these companies €58.5 million last year. That is money which could be spent on 500 houses in Donegal, five or six schools, or indeed reinstating social welfare income supports for part-time and seasonal workers to the 2012 levels across the State. The Government is blinded by the notion of private services being more efficient when the figures clearly show that this is not the case. Will the Taoiseach shut down JobPath and instead reinvest the money into State services, moving away from the encroaching privatisation of social service provision in this country?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We have gone from a situation in Ireland where, only five or six years ago, we were in the middle of an economic and unemployment crisis. Some 15% of people were unemployed and people were being forced to emigrate again. We have net migration now, with more Irish citizens coming home than are leaving, and unemployment at approximately 5%. We will soon reach full employment, the point at which there is a job in Ireland for everyone who genuinely wants one. We are almost there. That is enormous progress in only a few years.

That did not happen by accident. A remarkable thing about Ireland's economic recovery is that we had jobs growth and a fall in unemployment almost from the start of the recovery. Most countries would see the economy recover first with jobs coming later and unemployment falling thereafter. That happened because a decision was taken by the last Government, of which I was a member, with Fine Gael and the Labour Party, to adopt an activist approach to getting people back to work. That is why the Intreo model was set up and why JobPath was contracted by my constituency colleague, Deputy Burton. That is why we continue to support the local employment schemes.

Some people will just find a job on their own but others need help, support, encouragement and training. That is done through different mechanisms. Intreo is the in-house service provided by the excellent staff of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection around the country. JobPath is outsourced because the Department did not have the capacity at the time of mass unemployment to do all the work. There are also the local employment schemes around the country. These mechanisms have been successful. The JobPath model is a payment by results model. Companies get a registration fee but beyond that they are only paid if the person they are working with enters gainful employment and stays in it for more than three months.

There is a contract. Terminating any contract with any company involves significant costs and penalties for the taxpayer. We are certainly not going to cancel any such contracts. We are entering a different phase in our economy where we are heading towards full employment so obviously services such as JobPath may not be needed in the future but that is an assessment that the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, will have to make. In future, the focus will be less on people who are unemployed because unemployment is down so far, and more on activating and encouraging into the labour market people who are not on jobseeker's benefit or jobseeker's allowance.

I encourage anyone who has a complaint to make that complaint to the provider and if he or she is not satisfied with the response, he or she can complain to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, which will investigate it. When one looks at the tens or hundreds of thousands of people who have been involved in the various programmes that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection runs, the percentage of complaints is reassuringly low.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle There is no doubt that things are improving and people are getting jobs. That is welcome. Despite the Government spending €58.5 million on JobPath last year, it is not creating any significant extra jobs beyond what people are getting themselves. The data from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection show that. Those are the figures the Government has. We spent €58.5 million to have 4% more jobs created. That is not good value for money to me, and even the Government, having seen how the private sector works, would surely think that is not good value for money and that it does not work. This system is not working, it has not worked and the Taoiseach should accept that it has not worked. It will not work in the future either. People will find jobs if they get the support and the staff are already in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to help and support those people. The Government does not need to privatise it so why does it continue to do so?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We have the staff now. There are many staff in our Intreo offices around the country. When unemployment was three times what it is now, the Department and Government did not have the staff. That is why JobPath was brought in as an additional provider to provide these services to assist people to get into employment. The context is now changing and we need to use those models in other areas. We used a similar model with the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, to reduce waiting lists significantly in areas in the public health service where we do not have capacity.


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