Written Answers. - Training/Employment Schemes Funding.

17.

asked the Minister for Labour the plans, if any, being prepared by his Department in the expectation of changes in the financial assistance available from the European Social Fund which would offer greater opportunities for participation in training or employment schemes to those who are long-term unemployed, particularly those over 25.

European Social Fund assistance is, at present, available for a number of programmes to assist the long-term unemployed over 25 years of age such as the building on experience training programme and the social employment scheme.

As regards the reform of the Social Fund, I would refer the Deputy to a very comprehensive reply which I gave in response to Question No. 165 on Tuesday 15 March, 1988. As part of the preparations being made to benefit from the expanded resources of the Structural Funds and particularly the European Social Fund, work on plans concerning assistance for the long-term unemployed is proceeding.

The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot be more forthcoming because the precise terms governing the reform of the ESF are still being negotiated. My Department are actively involved in those negotiations. In that context, and in accordance with the priority given to them by the Commission and the Council my objective is to maximise the opportunities available for employment and training programmes for the long-term unemployed including those over 25.

It is likely that the present distinction in Community rules between assistance to those over 25 and those under 25 will be removed so that assistance will be available for all irrespective of age.