Community Employment (CE) is a positive initiative that enables the long-term unemployed to make a contribution to their communities whilst up-skilling themselves for prospective future employment. It helps to break the cycle of unemployment and improve a person’s chances of returning to the labour market.
CE participants between 21 and 55 years are entitled to one year on the programme. This can be extended by up to 2 more years if they are engaged in a recognised training or education award that is helping them progress towards employment. All CE participants age 55 and over can avail of 3 consecutive years on a CE scheme. The overall limit of participation on CE is 6 years from 1st January 2007 (7 years if on a disability payment). Persons aged over 62 can remain on the scheme to State Pension age subject to criteria and limitation.
A number of changes to the terms and conditions of participation on CE were introduced in 2017. The main purpose of these changes was to broaden the availability to a greater number of people on the Live Register and to standardise other conditions around the length of time a person can participate on a programme.
While participation on CE is a stepping stone back to employment, these positions are not full-time sustainable jobs. Nevertheless, I am fully committed to the future of community employment schemes, and I want to see them sustained.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Government agreed to establish an Interdepartmental Group (IDG) to explore how social inclusion schemes might best be organised into the future including which Department should hold lead responsibility for sponsoring CE schemes focused on social Inclusion, the Rural Social Scheme and the Job Initiative scheme.
Meetings of the IDG have taken place along with bilateral meetings with appropriate Departments. There has also been a consultative process with relevant Stakeholders and their submissions are being considered as part of the deliberation process. I expect to have a final report shortly.