Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Community Employment Schemes
123. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if persons already taking part in the community employment scheme will be allowed to continue to finish out their tenure; and if new referrals will be made for the scheme going forward. [37307/20]
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.
In general, the period of participation on CE is for one year. However, CE participants who are working towards a major award or industry qualification can seek to extend participation by up to a further two years. A significant number of CE participants avail of this extension in order to continue training and obtain qualifications or major awards.
During the initial phase of the Covid-19 emergency earlier this year, when public health restrictions were first introduced, the Department continued to support CE schemes and maintained funding to all schemes. Other contingency measures were also introduced, including the extension of those CE participant contracts that were due to come to an end during the lockdown period.
Following the more recent move to Level-5 restrictions under the Government's Resilience and Recovery Plan, the Department has reintroduced these contingency arrangements for CE schemes and CE participants. The Department will continue to support and provide funding for CE schemes. Department officials have been liaising with schemes to arrange for those CE participants who were due to finish over the 6 week, Level-5 period to have their contracts extended while these restrictions are in place; unless a participant is taking up employment or reaches the State Pension age.
Placements on CE are temporary and are subject to time limits to safeguard the availability of opportunities for employment on CE schemes for other long term unemployed candidates.
Recruitment will continue onto CE schemes during the current Level 5 restrictions where it is appropriate and safe to do so. But level 5 restrictions may have implications for the number of referrals during this period. Once restrictions are reduced or lifted, referrals to CE schemes should begin to get back to more normal levels, with participants being referred by the Departments case offices to CE schemes. Therefore I can assure the Deputy that new referrals will be made to the scheme over the coming period. I am fully committed to the future of this programme and will continue to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the CE participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities.