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.
During the first phase of the Covid-19 emergency earlier this year, when the most restrictive measures were in place, the Department continued to provide the necessary funding for CE schemes. Other contingency measures were also introduced, including the extension of those CE participant contracts that were due to come to an end during that initial emergency period.
Following the Government's introduction of Level-5 restrictions in October, the Department reintroduced the contingency arrangements and continued to provide funding for CE schemes. Department officials have been liaising with CE schemes to arrange for those participants who were due to finish in the period while the Level-5 restrictions are in place, to have their contracts extended until restrictions can start to be lifted, unless a participant is taking up employment or reaches the State Pension age.
It should be noted that where possible while complying with public health guidelines some CE schemes were able to continue to operate throughout the emergency periods, particularly those providing essential services within their communities such as meals on wheels and home caring services. CE sponsoring authorities. like all employers and service providers are responsible for adhering to the national Covid-19 related guidelines to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees and those to whom they are providing services. My Department is committed to supporting the CE sponsoring authorities in the valuable services that they deliver across the communities. The measures introduced to support CE sponsoring authorities and CE participants will be kept under review. However there are no plans to extend CE participant contracts beyond the current emergency period as extensions could have a detrimental effect on other long-term unemployed candidates wishing to avail of the opportunities afforded by CE. The priority for my Department is to ensure that all employment and activation programmes have the best outcomes for participants. Places on these employment support schemes 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.