Seanad debates

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Community Employment Schemes

10:30 am

Photo of Joe O'BrienJoe O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

Community employment is the largest employment and training programme administered by the Department of Social Protection. The programme was initially established under the aegis of FÁS to enhance the employability of long term unemployed people by providing work experience and training opportunities for them in their communities. Its objective continues to be to provide valuable work experience for long-term unemployed people to help prepare them to gain employment. The community employment programme is delivered throughout the community and voluntary sector by independent community employment scheme sponsoring authorities.

In general, community employment placements for new entrants aged between 21 and 55 years are for one year. Community employment scheme participants who are working towards a Quality and Qualifications Ireland, QQI, major award can seek to extend their participation in a scheme by up to two years to enable them to reach the required standard of qualification. A significant of number of community employment scheme participants each year avail of an extension in order to continue training and obtain qualifications or major awards. However, community employment scheme participants aged 55 years or older can remain on a scheme for three years and do not have to work towards a QQI major award.

In either scenario, a maximum of three consecutive years' participation in a community employment scheme is permissible. A person may requalify for a community employment scheme after a 12-month break once he or she satisfies the qualifying conditions. An overall lifetime limit of six years applies to all community employment scheme participants and seven years for those in receipt of a disability payment.

A pilot initiative, known as service support stream, was implemented in January 2016 for those aged 62 years or older. The initiative facilitated up to 7% of the total community employment scheme numbers being allowed to extend their participation beyond the maximum duration normally permitted and to remain in community employment up to the State pension age, provided the participant continued to meet the eligibility conditions and the number of places in the community employment scheme was not exceeded.

Overall, the service support stream was positively received by community employment schemes sponsoring authorities and participants who availed of the pilot scheme. A number of new conditions were introduced in July 2017 to further support progression and broaden access to community employment for a wider range of people. The service support stream was one of the new options provided on a more mainstream basis. In 2018, the 7% limit for service stream support participation placements was increased to enable 10% of the total number of community employment scheme participants to apply for this facility for those aged over 62 and without the need for a 12-month break in their previous community employment scheme participation, provided the participants continued to meet the eligibility conditions and the number of places on the community employment scheme were not exceeded.

in summary, I can confirm that community employment scheme participants aged over 62 can continue on a continuous basis up to the State pension age in this specific community employment service support scheme strand. This is subject to the standard criteria such as the availability of places on the service support stream, satisfactory performance on the scheme and annual approval by the Department.


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