Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Questions (1285)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

1285. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans for community employment schemes and the local employment services; the efforts she will make to safeguard same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13529/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Community employment (CE) is the largest employment programme administered by my Department. It aims to enhance employability and mobility by providing work experience and training opportunities for unemployed persons within their own communities. In addition, it helps long-term unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine.

Deputies on all sides of the House are fully aware of the positive benefits derived from schemes like CE. Communities benefit from the skills and talents of participants and, in addition, participants are provided with the opportunity to improve existing skills, or develop new skills, while performing valuable work in their local communities.

Furthermore, many CE schemes provide vital community services across the country, all of which are well embedded in these communities.

I am fully committed to the future of this programme and will continue to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the participants and the valuable contribution it makes to local communities. In that regard, the Government has agreed to establish an Interdepartmental Group (IDG) to explore the most appropriate organisational arrangements for activation and social inclusion CE placements.

As the Deputies are aware, following the review of the CE scheme in 2015, a decision was taken to adopt a two strand approach for all CE placements and they were categorised as either a training/activation strand or a social inclusion strand. It is my strong view that local services which are supported by these social inclusion placements must be safeguarded into the future. This scheme will continue to be subject to continuous improvement and reviewed on a regular basis.

The Department values the local services provided by bodies such as the Local Employment Service (LES) very highly and will continue to depend on local service providers to supplement and complement its own direct service provision into the future. However, it is a legal requirement that these services be procured in an open process and that appropriate governance arrangements are in place. Accordingly my Department commissioned Indecon to complete an independent, evidence–based evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency and of the governance of the LES and Job Clubs. The report was published in January 2019 and will help inform both the Department and the LES as to how to ensure compliance with legal procurement requirements. My Department and I have been engaging with key stakeholders throughout this process and will, of course, continue to do so.