My Department provides a range of activation supports and programmes catering for long-term unemployed jobseekers and those most distant from the labour market. These supports include Community Employment (CE), Tús and the Rural Social Scheme (RSS).
The aim of CE is to enhance the employability of disadvantaged and unemployed people by providing work experience and training opportunities for them within their communities. The programme helps break the cycle of unemployment and improve a person’s chances of returning to the labour market.
CE schemes are typically sponsored by voluntary and community organisations wishing to benefit the local community. As the employers, these sponsoring organisations contract with the Department, on an annual basis, to provide jobseekers and other vulnerable groups with good quality work experience and training qualifications to support their progression into employment.
Tús commenced operation in 2011 as a response to the high level of unemployment and the large numbers on the Live Register. It is a community work placement initiative which aims to provide short-term work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year. The duration of the Tús contract is a maximum of 12 months and this ensures that as many people as possible who are unemployed for over 12 months are able to benefit from the initiative.
RSS provides opportunities for farmers and fishermen/women who are currently in receipt of specified social welfare payments to work to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. Communities benefit from the skills and talents of local farmers and fishermen and participants have the opportunity to improve existing skills, or develop new skills, while performing this valuable work in their local communities. RSS is voluntary and the person applies to participate.
When RSS and Tús were introduced it was decided that the existing network of local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta - referred to as Implementing Bodies (IBs) - were best placed to manage the programmes. Tús is managed by 48 IBs, while RSS is managed by 36 IBs.
The payment rates for participants on CE, Tús and RSS are related to the underlying value of their social protection payment plus €22.50 per week, with a minimum payment to each participant of €225.50. In Budget 2019, I increased this minimum rate payment by €5 increase in line with other payments in my Department. In addition, a participant may be eligible, where appropriate, for payments in respect of any qualified dependant adult and children.
As with all schemes under the remit of my Department and in keeping with the welcome reductions in the Live Register and the increasing number of job opportunities, the Deputy will appreciate that we constantly seek to improve on all aspects of delivery, for both the individuals concerned and the community as a whole.
In this regard, the Government has recently established an Interdepartmental Group (IDG) to explore the most appropriate organisation arrangements, including which Department should host the CE Social Inclusion schemes and the Rural Social Scheme (RSS). It is hoped that the IDG will report the outcome of the deliberations of the group to Cabinet by in the coming months. A consultative process will take place shortly and I welcome any proposals put forward.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.