Tuesday, 21 June 2022
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Community Employment Schemes
The aim of the Community Employment (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 local communities. The programme aims to improve a person’s opportunities to return to the labour market.
I should mention, at the outset, that Minister Humphreys and I published the Interdepartmental Group Report in December 2021 which looked at the most appropriate organisational arrangements to manage social inclusion schemes.
As the economy and society emerged from COVID at the end of last year, it was clear that some schemes were encountering difficulties maintaining services and that this could continue in 2022 and into 2023. As a consequence, Minister Humphreys and I announced wide-ranging reforms to schemes last December. One of the changes introduced means that all persons over 60 years of age can now stay on CE until reaching retirement age.
Along with this, in order to assist with the increased turnover of participants and the potential impact on services, CE participants whose contract term is coming to an end are permitted to stay on CE until a replacement is found. Approximately 600 participants have had their contracts extended on this basis since the start of April.
Both Minister Humphreys and I are very aware of the ongoing challenges faced by CE, with the increased numbers of participants leaving schemes on the expiry of contracts, which were extended on a number of occasions during COVID. Coupled with the very welcome low levels of unemployment, post COVID, this means that some schemes are still facing challenges in filling vacancies. We are currently examining a further set of proposals to support CE schemes, during this period, by improving the recruitment and referral process, extending eligibility to new cohorts, and reducing the level of turnover on some schemes. The intention is to bring these to Government shortly.
I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.