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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 May 1995

Vol. 452 No. 4

Written Answers. - Community Employment Programme.

Tom Kitt


13 Mr. T. Kitt asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he will reverse his decision to reduce the number of places on community employment schemes in view of the fact the cutbacks will have severe consequences for the participants and the projects concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8058/95]

Máirín Quill


23 Miss Quill asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he has received an up-to-date report on community development projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8104/95]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 23 together.

I and the Government are well aware of the impact of the current level of funding for the community employment programme on both participants and sponsors of projects.

However, I wish to state the reality of the situation which faced me as Minister when I came into office. The reality is that the Fianna Fáil caretaker Government last December had imposed massive cuts in community employment. Their funding estimates would have cut numbers by a massive 16,000 from 42,000 to 26,000 by the end of this year. In effect Fianna Fáil would have decimated community employment.
On coming into office the new Government, in line with its commitment to tackling unemployment, immediately provided more money for more people. We have provided £256 million for an average participation rate of 38,500 during the year. Average participation last year averaged 31,000. It is disingenuous of Fianna Fáil to suggest that it is the new Government that has imposed cut backs.
I fully accept that if you have about 42,000 on the scheme there will have to be some reductions to achieve the 38,500 average for the year as a whole. What FÁS is now doing, in line with its budgetary allocation, is managing the scheme in a structured way to achieve the average target of 38,500.
I have met with John Lynch, the FÁS director general, to ensure that the unemployed get maximum benefit from the scheme this year, that there is minimum disruption to schemes locally and that the taxpayer gets good value for money. I will be keeping the operation of community employment under constant review in consultation with FÁS.
I have also asked FÁS to look at ways of managing community employment over a three year timeframe. The objective of such an approach would be to avoid the stop-go approach that has bedeviled employment schemes for many years.
Community employment is only one string in the Government's bow so far as addressing unemployment is concerned. The Government has, in addition, provided an extra £6 million for the establishment of the local employment service in 14 disadvantaged areas. This new service is designed to promote "hands on" guidance, counselling and placement services for the long term unemployed. This new initiative is a further sign of the Government's commitment to tackling long term unemployment as a high priority.
I am currently examining the possibilities of making further funding available for the programme within overall financial parameters and will be reporting back to my Cabinet colleagues as soon as possible.