The social economy programme supports the development of social economy enterprises and provides sustainable jobs for the long-term unemployed. A total allocation of €351 million is being provided in 2004 to support up to 25,000 places across the three employment schemes, community employment, CE, job initiative. JI, and the social economy programme, SEP. Of this sum, more than €40 million is being allocated to the social economy programme. There are currently 2,412 grant supported employees on the programme.
The demands for assistance under this programme far exceed the budget available. FÁS is scheduling the support to approved projects so as to ensure as equitable a distribution of funds as possible. In the circumstances, it is not possible to satisfy all demands and some enterprises will be disappointed. FÁS will review each project with the managing agents and, in particular, will evaluate the sustainability of the projects after the third year. Where projects are considered not sustainable the possibility of supporting essential social services through community employment will be considered. In addition, special attention will be paid to needs of the participants on these projects.
A review of the social economy programme was undertaken and is being considered by FÁS and my Department. The review will inform the future direction of the programme.