Wednesday, 19 May 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
160. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider extending the contract of each participant on affected schemes such as community employment, Tús, the rural social scheme and so on as a consequence of Covid-19 restrictions in view of the disruption to the activities of employment activation schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26828/21]
The Department of Social Protection delivers a range of employment and income support schemes including Community Employment (CE), Tús and the Rural Social Scheme (RSS).
As the Deputy is aware, my Department has supported CE, Tús and RSS schemes since the onset of the Covid-19 emergency in March 2020. Furthermore, a number of CE, Tús and RSS schemes, which provide essential community services, have been able to continue to deliver these services, while complying with the public health restrictions in place during differing levels of restrictions over the last fourteen months..
RSS participants who commenced on the scheme prior to 1st February 2017 will remain on the scheme as long as they continue to satisfy the eligibility conditions of the scheme. A six-year time limit for new RSS participants was introduced from the 1st February 2017 but the earliest that any RSS participant will be affected by the six-year maximum duration limit will be 2023.
CE and Tús participants, whose contracts were due to end during the periods of Level-5 restrictions have had their contracts extended for the duration of those restrictions with the most recent extension date being the 2nd July 2021. Over 7,000 CE and Tús participants are benefitting from this existing contract extension, that applies to all CE and Tús participants whose contracts were due to finish since end-October 2020. This contract extension date is under active review. My priority and the priority of my Department is to ensure all CE schemes are in a position to get services fully back up and running over the next few months, in accordance with the phased opening up of the economy, while continuing to comply with public health restrictions.
It is important to note that when CE and Tús participants are eventually due to finish on their respective schemes, this will be undertaken on a coordinated, phased basis over a number of months and as number of new referrals to schemes increase. This will assist with service continuity and provide further time for CE participants to finish placements and training.
The priority for my Department is to ensure that all employment and activation programmes have the best outcomes for participants, including those whose participation has been affected by the pandemic.
I am fully committed to the future of these programmes and will continue to support and improve the programmes for the benefit of the CE, Tús and RSS participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities throughout the country.