Thursday, 10 September 2020
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Community Employment Schemes
138. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason for a change to the eligibility rules for community employment participants over 55 years of age in circumstances in which they can no longer remain on the scheme beyond three years; if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties being posed to sponsors in replacing these participants; if she will consider reversing the rule change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23134/20]
The Community Employment (CE) Scheme is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis
There have been no recent changes to the eligibility rules for CE participants. However, a number of changes were introduced to the eligibility criteria for CE in 2017 to broaden access to the CE programme to a greater number of people on the Live Register and to standardise the conditions around the length of time a person can remain on a scheme.
In general, participation in CE for those aged between 21 and 55 years is for 1 year. Where a CE participant is working towards a QQI major award or working towards a recognised industry standard, their time on CE may be extended by up 2 years to complete this training. In addition, those over 55 years of age can remain on CE for 3 years.
An overall lifetime limit of 6 years applies to all CE participants (7 years for those from a disability payment). A person may re-qualify for CE after 12 months of being in receipt of a qualifying payment, provided they have not reached their lifetime limit.
Placements on CE are temporary and are subject to time limits to safeguard the availability of opportunities for employment on CE schemes for other candidates. I am mindful of ensuring that there is capacity on the CE scheme, within the financial allocation available to my Department, to enable other long-term jobseekers access to the work experience and training opportunities available through CE. Unfortunately, this is particularly relevant in the current environment with the rise in Live Register numbers following the Covid-19 emergency.
The Department is increasing its case management activity on all of its employment support schemes to ensure that jobseekers continue to have the necessary access to the opportunities available. CE candidates should not be constrained by existing CE participants remaining on their CE schemes beyond agreed end-dates. My officials are working closely with CE sponsoring authorities to ensure they receive the necessary referrals for vacancies arising on their CE schemes.