Tuesday, 17 May 2022
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
116. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she intends reforming the TÚS, community employment and the rural social schemes to make them more attractive to participants and potential participants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24501/22]
The Department provides a range of income supports and activation programmes for long-term unemployed jobseekers and those most distant from the labour market. These supports include Tús, Community Employment Scheme (CE) and the Rural Social Scheme (RSS). Tús is a work initiative that provides short-term work opportunities for those who have been unemployed for more than a year, in community work placements.
The aim of the CE programme is to enhance the employability of disadvantaged and long term unemployed people by providing work experience and training opportunities for them within their communities. Depending on age and circumstances, participation on CE is for one to three years consecutively, with a six year limit. Older age cohorts can stay on CE until reaching state pension age.
RSS is an income support initiative providing part-time employment opportunities for farmers or fishers in receipt of certain social welfare payments, and underemployed in their primary occupation, within their local area in community and voluntary organisations.
The RSS scheme plays an important role in sustaining rural communities, with participants having the opportunity to improve existing skills, or develop new skills, whilst performing valuable work in their local communities.
Minister Humphreys and I were pleased to announce reforms to RSS and CE schemes on 21st December last to improve the operation of schemes and further support schemes maintain vital services to communities. These changes included a provision to allow CE/RSS participants who reach 60 years of age to remain on both schemes until they reach state pension age.
The following is a summary of the main reforms which became effective from 1 January 2022.
- All participants on RSS and CE who are 60 years of age or older can remain on the programme until they reach the state pension age.
- Strengthening of the referral process.
- Discounting time spent on CE, after seven years, as counting towards the maximum time allowable on CE.
My Department will continue to focus on referrals to CE and Tús over the coming months to ensure that vacancies on the schemes are filled. We will also continue to support efforts by the sponsoring companies and implementing bodies (IBs) to advertise and promote both schemes.
My Department continually monitors all its income and employment support programmes to ensure that they are achieving the best outcomes for participants and for the local communities in which they operate. My Department intends to undertake a specific review of the operation of RSS later in 2022, as it will take some time before the impact of the changes implemented at the start of the year are fully known.
I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.