Thursday, 20 January 2022
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Community Employment Schemes
257. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the way to proceed with contracts for participants under 60 years of age (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2822/22]
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 to improve their prospect of returning to employment. Generally, up to a certain age, participants contracts on CE last for one to three years and in certain specific circumstances can last up to six years.
In light of the ongoing COVID related challenges faced by CE schemes and their participants, Minister Humphreys and I announced changes to rules governing CE schemes just before the end of 2021. The qualifying age for the CE service support stream (SSS) has been reduced from 62 to 60 and the 10% cap on the number of places in this stream has been removed. This means that persons over sixty will be able to remain on CE until they reach retirement age.
As the Deputy will be aware over the course of the pandemic, CE participants’ contracts were extended on a number of occasions, as an emergency support measure. This measure resulted in many contracts extending beyond the standard time limits.. The latest extension extended participants' contracts up to at least February 2022. After that date, participants with extended contracts, will start to leave schemes on a co-ordinated, phased basis over a prolonged period continuing up until January 2023. Departmental officials will work with local schemes on the timescale for the phased ending of these contracts.
To further assist with the transition from COVID emergency supports over the next period, participants, including those with extended contracts, may not be required to leave CE, where a suitable replacement has not yet been referred to the scheme. This transitionary provision will support schemes to retain important local community services, given the higher-than-normal turnover of participants in 2022 as extended contracts come to an end.
Officials from my Department will continue to work with and support all CE schemes throughout the transitionary period as the extended contracts come to an end. They will also continue to work with local CE sponsor organisations to identify suitable CE candidates. Time spent on PUP will count towards eligibility for CE. CE sponsor organisations are also encouraged by the Department to continue to promote the benefits of CE to long term unemployed persons in their local communities.
My priority and the priority of the Department is to have all CE schemes back providing normal services and supports to their long-term unemployed participants while delivering valuable services to local communities.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.