Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (563)

Seán Canney


563. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the current implementation of the saver clause in community employment schemes which states that participants who commenced on community employment prior to 3 July 2017 will be entitled to remain under their existing community employment eligibility rules in which this is to their advantage; if it is more advantageous to the person the current criteria can be applied; if this saver clause is being applied across the country uniformly, especially in relation to persons aged 55 years and over; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38210/20]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Community Employment (CE) Scheme is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis.

A number of new conditions were introduced to the CE Scheme in July 2017 to further support progression to employment, broaden CE access to a wider range of people and to standardise the conditions relating to the length of time a CE participant can remain on a CE scheme.

Prior to 2017, there were two available options for participating on CE. Both options commenced with one year of participation with the possibility of either one or two more years, depending on the option taken. Both options were subject to qualification criteria and neither required the CE participant to undertake any training resulting in the achievement of a major QQI award.

In 2017 the new conditions and qualifying criteria were introduced and a saver clause was provided for the existing clients: ‘Participants who commenced on CE prior to 3rd July 2017 will be entitled to remain under their existing CE eligibility rules, where this is to their advantage. If it is more advantageous to the person, the current criteria can be applied.’

The saver clause that was introduced allowed CE participants who commenced under that option to continue on CE for a maximum of three consecutive years with or without working towards a QQI major award, whichever was more advantageous. The 2017 saver clause does not allow those affected to continue to participate on CE for six years consecutively.

The same continuous limitation of three years continues to apply to all CE participants both pre and post 2017. CE participation was never intended to be long-term and the maximum continued participation on CE is three years.

In general CE placements for new entrants aged between 21 and 55 years are for one year. CE participants who are working towards a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) major award can seek to extend their participation on CE by up to two years to enable them to reach the required standard of qualification. CE participants aged 55 years or older can remain on CE for three years and do not have to work towards a QQI major award. In either scenario, a maximum of three consecutive year's participation on CE is permissible. A person may re-qualify for CE after a twelve month break once they satisfy the qualifying conditions. An overall lifetime limit of six years applies to all CE participants (seven years for those on a disability payment). The same rules and eligibility criteria attached to participation on CE are applied throughout the country.

The priority for my Department is to ensure that all employment and activation programmes have the best outcomes for participants. Places on these work programmes will continue to be made available to support those who are long term unemployed and furthest removed from the labour market, while maintaining the role of CE as an active labour market programme.

I am fully committed to the future of CE and will continue to support and improve CE for the benefit of the CE participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities.