Community Employment (CE) is an activation and employment support initiative that enables the long-term unemployed to make a contribution to their communities whilst up-skilling themselves for employment opportunities. CE schemes can play an important role in breaking the cycle of long-term unemployment for some people and improve their chances of employment. The priority for my Department is to ensure that all employment and activation programmes have the best outcomes for participants. The focus of CE is on the cohort of long-term unemployed people on the Live Register. Therefore in order to qualify for CE, a number of conditions, including being in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for a specific period, must be met.
Time spent on PUP by current or former recipients can be used towards the CE requirement of having to be unemployed for 12 months or more to be eligible for CE. However, the remaining CE qualifying criteria must also be satisfied, including the need for a candidate to be in receipt of an existing eligible social welfare payment at the time of referral to a CE scheme.
While many persons currently in receipt of PUP will return to their previous employment once current Covid -19 restrictions ease, Government are very conscious of the need to provide activation and other supports for those currently in receipt of PUP whose jobs will not return, post COVID. The Government's July Job Stimulus sets out a range of supports including increasing the number of places of state employment programmes such as CE and Tus by 3,000. It is important that these measures are targeted at those at most remove from the labour market, who have been unemployed for over a year.
I am fully committed to the future of this programme and will continue to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the long term unemployed CE participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities.