Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Questions (132)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

132. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider relaxing the three-year rule and allowing community employment participants to remain with a scheme longer and continue the invaluable work being provided in communities. [58032/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The aim of the Community Employment (CE) programme is to enhance the employability of disadvantaged and long-term unemployed people by providing work experience and training opportunities for them within their local communities. The programme aims to improve a person’s opportunities to return to the labour market.

CE placements are intended to be temporary and subject to time limits. This is to ensure the continued availability of places on CE schemes for a broad range of long-term unemployed candidates. Those who are unemployed and in receipt of an eligible payment for 12 months or more may be eligible to participate on CE.

In general, all CE placements for new entrants aged between 21 and 55 years are for one year. However, CE participants, working towards a major educational award, can seek to extend participation by up to two years to enable them to reach the required qualification standards.

Generally, the maximum amount of time that a person can spend on a CE scheme over his or her your lifetime is 6 years (7 years if the person is getting a disability-linked social welfare payment). A person who, for example, has completed three years on CE may be considered eligible to participate again if s/he satisfies the eligibility criteria, including being in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for 12 months.

Those over 55 years of age can remain on CE for up to three years, while CE participants who are aged over 55 and commenced on CE prior to the introduction of the changes in 2017 continue to be eligible to stay on CE for six consecutive years.

CE participants over the age of 62 can participate on a continuous basis up to the State Pension age on the CE Service Support Stream (SSS), subject to certain criteria. In total, 10% of all CE placements are available under the service support stream and Department officials continue to encourage CE schemes to promote this facility.

Other than COVID related contract extensions provided to over 18,000 participants to support CE schemes and participants during the pandemic, there are no plans at present to extend participation limits as suggested by the Deputy. Any extension would reduce the number of employment support places available for persons who are facing the greatest difficulty in returning to employment, the long-term unemployed. I will continue 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 while ensuring that places continue to be made available to those who are long term unemployed. I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.