A number of opposition TDs have expressed serious concern that the JobPath employment activation scheme has been extended for a further year.

Representatives from the Department of Social Protection told the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that contracts have been extended with the two private companies  Turas Nua and Seetec, which operate the scheme.

This is the second extension that has been granted since the Dáil voted to end referrals of jobseekers in April 2019. The services is provided to people who have been on the live register for more than a year and are trying to secure full-time employment

Chair of the PAC, Sinn Féin's Brian Stanley said he has received correspondence from people "tormented" by the scheme.

He referred to two separate letters from substitute teachers who had to forego work as a result of their interactions with the JobPath scheme.

He cited research from last year showing that 7% of people referred to the scheme stayed in the job for longer than a year.

Deputy Stanley said the Local Employment Services (LES) is a more successful or cheaper way of getting people into employment.

"It is a really, really serious concern that there is a huge amount of public money being spent here. Not only have these contracts been extended out from last December to this December, but now we have contracted it out again," Mr Stanley told the Committee.

Social Democrats co-leader, Catherine Murphy, said she has heard of similar experiences from people who felt they were being forced to give up part-time jobs to go on JobPath.

Secretary General of the Department of Social protection John McKeon defended the scheme. He said the job progression rate of people who take up the scheme is around 8-10%

"You are looking at very long term unemployed people, it is a very significant increase," he said.

He also said that in regular surveys, people give "glowing" accounts of their experiences with JobPath.

However Deputy Murphy questioned whether people feel they can be honest in such surveys, "it isn't an equal relationship, people feel very dependent and don't want to rock the boat," she said.