In accordance with the Government's decision in 1999 to restructure community employment, CE, participation levels are gradually being reduced reflecting the significant reduction in the numbers of the long-term unemployed, and the shift in emphasis away from work experience programmes to training, from which there is a greater level of progression to employment. The target average participation rate on the programme for 2003, which would include supervisors and participants, is 22,000. The number of supervisors required to work on CE is reducing in line with reductions in the number of participants on the programme. There were a total of 24,991 persons employed on CE at the start of 2003 and this number will reduce to a projected year-end participation rate of 20,000.
The CE programme is currently under review. A cross-departmental senior officials group has been asked to consider options for the future of CE, taking account of the link with the provision of community services. In addition, the PPF mandated review of active labour market programmes is being progressed under the aegis of the Standing Committee on the Labour Market, chaired by my Department. FÁS is also currently undertaking an internal review of CE and the job initiative programme, which should be finalised shortly. The outcome of these various initiatives will inform the Government's consideration of options for the future direction of the CE programme.