€1.2m of Jobseekers’ Allowance overpaid last year

There was an estimated €1.2m in overpayments of Jobseekers’ Allowance last year, as 1.6% of claims for those aged 18-25 were not paid at the appropriate, age-related personal rates.

The audit of the department’s 2017 appropriation account looked at the JA claim-load on November 3 last, when there were 30,019 claimants aged 18 to 25 in receipt of payment.

At that time, 83% were on a reduced rate, while the remaining 17% were in receipt of the maximum personal rate of €193 per week.

Among that latter group, 486 payment claims (1.6% of those under 26) were found not to meet the qualifying conditions for payment of the maximum personal rate of JA.

The estimated cost of €1.2m in overpayments was based on the length of time the claim was in payment in 2017.

According to the C&AG report: “The controls in place to ensure that age-appropriate personal rates are applied correctly were not operating effectively to prevent overpayments occurring.”

“The department should examine the possibility of programming the rules for those under 26 in receipt of JA into the claim-handling system to prevent overpayments occurring. In the interim, a greater level of quality-control checking should be applied to this category of payment.”

The number of people unemployed for more than a year, and classified as long-term unemployed, fell by 45% in the four years to the end of 2017, while the department hopes to conclude a review of its JobPath service by the end of the year, in collaboration with the OECD.

More than 192,000 job-seekers were referred to JobPath between July, 2015 and March, 2018, with 32,000 either cancelling or not yet engaged with the service.

By the end of that period, one-fifth of those who began with JobPath were in a job, 28% were not working, and 43% were still engaged with the service.

In the same period, fees payable by the department to the service-providers amounted to €109m, comprising a registration fee payable when the jobseeker agrees a Personal Progression Plan and job-sustainment fees, payable at intervals, at which point a jobseeker remains in full-time employment.

Each contractor submits a list of jobseekers that have met those milestones, for validation by the DEASP.

According to the report: “During the validation process for some 50,000 claims for job-sustainment fees, submitted in the period July 2015 to March, 2018, the Department found a total of 10,000 claims (20%) to be invalid.

“Over half of the claims found invalid were due to the jobseeker also being in receipt of an income-support payment.”

Another one-third were not supported by Revenue job-commencement employment data.

In addition, 28 departmental inspections, last year, found a number of issues, including that the mandatory review of agreed PPPs, after 13, 26 and 39 weeks, was not completed in all cases, with reviews not completed or completed late, in between 30% to 80% of the cases inspected at six locations.

The C&AG report also noted that periodical control surveys are conducted to check for issues in the delivery of welfare payments, with one for disability allowance and another for the one-parent family payment planned for 2019.

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