At a meeting held on 27/01/2021 with representatives from the CE sponsors, a range of issues causing concern was outlined. Following this meeting, my colleague Minister Humphreys and I announced a number of changes to CE, on Tuesday 2nd March, which substantially address the concerns raised.
Amongst the issues raised were the implications of a 2017 rule change that affected CE participants aged 55 years and older who were on CE in July 2017. We have confirmed that this cohort now have the option of remaining on CE for a maximum of six consecutive years, in accordance with the terms of the saver clause included in the 2017 rule changes.
As the Deputy will be aware, since the start of the Pandemic, Ministers Humphreys and I have approved the extension of CE participant contracts that would have come to an end during Level 5 restrictions on a number of occasions. We have now provided for a further extension up to the 2nd July.
I would also like to reassure the Deputy and the CE scheme in Skibbereen that, subsequent to the final extension date, there will be a planned ending of contracts on a phased basis, over a period of time, in order to ensure continuity of local services. Department officials will be working on the ground with CE schemes to support them in managing this process.
I remain committed to continuing to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the CE participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities through the provision of services.