As the Deputy will be aware, community employment, CE, schemes deliver on a number of our objectives. They provide a means for people to gain valuable work experience as a stepping stone to full-time employment, they deliver valuable services in our communities, towns and villages, and they help people who are genuinely long-term unemployed, are far removed from the workforce, and who have very high barriers to employment, to overcome social exclusion. As the labour market has recovered and the profile of people available to take up places on CE schemes has changed, at my request the Government established an interdepartmental group to explore how the social inclusion aspect of CE schemes might best be organised into the future. This included considering which Department should hold lead responsibility for sponsoring CE schemes focused on social inclusion, the rural social scheme and the job initiative scheme and whether there is any need to modify participation arrangements for individuals on these schemes.
Many meetings of the group have taken place, along with bilateral meetings between officials from my Department and other appropriate Departments. There has also been a consultative process with relevant stakeholders. Submissions were invited and were received in large numbers. These were considered as part of the deliberation process. I am advised that a final draft of the report will be given to me very soon. We will be setting a date for the final meeting of the interdepartmental group either today or tomorrow.