A range of new Government measures to widen the range of eligible participants should protect the future of Community Employment (CE) Schemes. These changes are being made in recognition of the social benefits of the CE scheme according to Cork East Fine Gael TD and Minister of State at the Department of Justice & Equality, David Stanton TD.
“The number of CE Scheme participants has fallen in recent years as numbers on the Live Register continue to fall with the national unemployment rate now down to 6.4% from 8.3% a year ago. It is therefore very important that we reform CE schemes so that we ensure a greater number of long-term unemployed people can take up places, gain valuable skills and experience, and support vital community services.
“There will be a strong focus on social inclusion in the future alongside the traditional purpose of helping people into the workforce. CE Schemes provide work experience and training for people who are long-term unemployed, but also bring great benefit communities across the county by supporting community services in childcare, health and social care, outdoor works and local facilities.
“Changes to the CE Scheme are being introduced further to an analysis conducted by the Department of the entire Community Employment Programme which include CE, TUS, Gateway and the Rural Social Scheme all of which are delivered by local sponsoring groups, local development companies and local authorities.
“To allow the scheme to better meet demand, a guaranteed minimum number of places will be available on the scheme and linked to the Live Register. The community and social benefits of CE will also be safeguarded thanks to a new two strand approach, with places on schemes categorised as either social inclusion or activation.
“Another major change will be a reduction in the entry age from 25 to 21 years allowing more young people to take part. My Fine Gael colleague, the Social Protection Minister, Leo Varadkar, also confirmed to me that it will be easier for previous participants to re-enter a scheme or get an extra year, as the cut-off year is being moved forward from 2000 to 2007.
“CE participants, who are working towards a major award, can now seek to extend participation by up to two years, while those over 55 years of age will be allowed to remain on CE for three years. Minister Varadkar will also review the possibility of allowing more older people to remain on the scheme for longer”, said Minister Stanton.
“I am aware from many local organisations and charities that they have encountered problems recently in securing CE workers and that this is having a negative impact on their ability to provide services to the community. We are making CE and other schemes more flexible as they not only support key services in the childcare, health and social care, sports and community sector but also for the benefit the participants themselves.
“I understand that as part of the implementation of the new measures announced by the Minister last Friday the Department will be consulting with key stakeholders in the coming weeks and implementation of the new arrangements will commence thereafter. I hope that these changes, once introduced, will ensure the success of these schemes into the future.”