Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Programme for Unemployed.


asked the Minister for Labour if he will consider initiating a programme for unemployed persons, both short term and long term, similar to the local employment initiatives throughout Europe, which would be of lasting benefit to both the community and the unemployed.

The term local employment initiative is used in Europe to describe activity undertaken by the community at local level to increase employment. It normally encompasses such areas as community business and enterprise development.

Section 4 (1) of the Labour Services Act provides for FÁS to assist local coununity groups in the provision of employment by the establishment of enterprises. This provision is made operational by the community enterprise programme which aims to assist, directly and indirectly, in the creation of economically viable jobs. FÁS is at present working with 350 local community groups in developing economic projects leading to substainable jobs.

As the Deputy is aware, the community dimension is also a feature of temporary work programmes such as the Social Employment Scheme and Teamwork. Projects under these schemes are organised by community bodies and local authorities and provide facilities and services which are of value to the community.

The Minister mentioned there were 350 groups involved in the community enterprise scheme. Are these groups active or are some under consideration but have not yet come to fruition?

These schemes are active.

My original question asked if the Minister would consider initiating further programmes on a wider scale for short term and long term unemployed people.

I accept the Deputy's views. I have spoken to people in FÁS who were in the other organisations dealing with the local employment initiative and accept that this area could be extended. The Youth Employment Agency were actively involved with a number of communities who, under the work space programme, had taken over old buildings and were setting up enterprise centres. This is a measure I support and I imagine FÁS, under the community enterprise programmes, would agree with the local communities that we should continue to develop that scheme.

Does the Minister have any intention of trying to get rid of some of the problems these groups encounter, such as the fact that in some cases they do not have a legal entity and have problems relating to financing these initiatives? For instance, they have grave problems raising funds to meet their employers liability insurance. I know a percentage of the grant is payable for those expenses but the basic problem for some of them is that they do not have a legal entity and cannot go to the bank. They are not the same as a company, they are not a recognised legal entity.

I am aware that that happens. FÁS are involved in that kind of detail. In 1988 £2 million has been allocated to the community enterprise programme and there were 60 training projects employing 390 people at the end of 1987. As I said earlier, FÁS are at present working with 350 local community groups but the numbers employed may not be very high. In addition, local communities are providing business advice and support, including some of the work space projects to which I have referred and there are 500 people involved in those schemes. I take the point in the Deputy's question. This is an area where rather than being involved in short term temporary schemes, FÁS can foster and develop sustainable jobs. In my meeting with the executives of FÁS I will continue to pursue that line.

That disposes of questions for today.