Thursday, 3 December 2020

Questions (77)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

77. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider extending the time that a person aged 55 years and over can remain on a community employment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39996/20]

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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. 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 Department has no current plans to extend participation limits on CE schemes for those aged over 55. However, CE participants over the age of 62 can participate on CE on a continuous basis until they reach the State Pension age via the CE Service Support Stream (SSS). Participation is subject to the availability of SSS places, satisfactory performance on the CE scheme and, annual approval by the Department. The places allocated for these participants within each individual CE scheme are subject to limitation criteria. 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.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 39.