Based on a FÁS audit of CE schools services undertaken in November 1999 there were 5,804 community employment, CE, participants employed in the primary and secondary levels as secretaries, caretakers and classroom assistants at a cost of £46 million. Since then the number engaged in schools services has been reduced to 4,514 at a cost of £36 million, according to a second audit of services undertaken by FÁS in September 2000. I expect that a decision will be arrived at in the near future on my Department's proposal to transfer funding at a level equivalent to the 1999 FÁS audit of CE services to the Department of Education and Science.
Following the proposed mainstreaming of CE schools services and the associated funding, CE services to schools will be discontinued and the overall number of participants on the programme will be reduced accordingly. Projects exclusively related to schools will, as a direct result of the mainstreaming process, be discontinued.
My Department is fully aware of the need to ensure that due recognition is given to the experience in schools posts gained by CE participants when filling vacancies arising under the mainstreaming process. This matter is being given full consideration in my Department's discussions with the Department of Education and Science. I hope to have the new funding arrangements for schools in place in the very near future and the process of discontinuing CE involvement in schools should be well advanced by the year end.