Wednesday, 16 December 2020
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Community Employment Schemes
225. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the extreme difficulties being experienced by many community employment schemes in recruiting participants; the efforts being made to ensure an adequate supply of eligible persons; if she will extend the scheme eligibility to allow for a larger pool of participants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43923/20]
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, CE recruitment does not present an issue for CE sponsoring authorities or the Department however, I recognise that the challenges caused by the original Covid-19 emergency earlier this year, coupled with the recent Level-5 restrictions, has had an impact on the ability of a number of CE schemes to recruit new CE participants.
While referrals to CE sponsoring authorities have continued throughout the Level 5 restrictions, the number of CE referrals from Intreo Offices has been impacted by the need to deploy Intreo staff to the delivery of other frontline services. During this period, CE sponsoring authorities have been encouraged to continue to promote awareness of the benefits of CE in their local communities, ensuring that CE vacancies are well publicised. They have also been able to advertise their vacancies free of charge on the Department's JobsIreland website www.jobsireland.ie.
With the exception of CE participants that are taking up employment or those that have reached the State Pension age, CE participants who were due to finish over the period of the Level-5 restrictions have had their CE contracts extended until the 15th January, 2021. Department officials have also continued to work with CE schemes to fill vacancies where it has been safe to do so.
Recruitment to all of the Department’s employment supports, including CE, will increase over the coming period in line with the planned recommencement of central activation services.
The priority for my Department is to ensure that CE has the best outcomes for participants. At present, my Department has no plans to extend the eligibility criteria for CE and places on CE will continue to be made available to support those who are long term unemployed and furthest removed from the labour market, while maintaining the role of CE as an active labour market programme.
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.