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Employment Schemes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 17 May 2022

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Questions (89)

Emer Higgins


89. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on the community employment scheme; and the number of persons currently availing of the scheme. [24226/22]

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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.

There are currently 848 CE schemes nationwide. At the end of April 2022 there were 19,037 participants and 1,243 supervisors on CE. Generally participants under 60 years of age can stay on CE for one to three years consecutively, with a maximum 6 years participation.

The budget for the CE programme in 2022 is €375.3 million. A total of €326.7million was spent on CE in 2021.

During the COVID pandemic the Minister for Social Protection and I extended CE participants contracts on a number of occasions. These contract extensions, which were in place from October 2020, supported CE schemes at various stages of the pandemic so that they could maintain important community services while also ensuring that participants had sufficient time to fully avail of the work experience and training opportunities affected by public health restrictions.

Existing CE participants have begun exiting their schemes on a coordinated and phased basis from 8 April 2022 and this will run up until January 2023. This will ensure continuity of service delivery and also support recruitment of new participants to fill consequential and existing vacancies.

In light of the COVID related challenges faced by CE schemes, Minister Humphreys and I announced a number of changes to CE in December 2021.

The CE baseline year was increased from 2007 to 2014 with immediate effect. The baseline year will be maintained at 7 years behind the current year going forward i.e. on 1 January 2022, the baseline year moved to 2015. This will benefit some persons who remain unemployed or once again become unemployed a while after completing a CE scheme, as time spent on schemes prior to the baseline year do not count towards participation limits on CE.

Persons over 60 years of age can now remain on CE until they reach the state pension age regardless of the time limits. Previously this only applied to persons over 62.

In addition, in order to assist with the transition from COVID emergency supports over the next period, participants, including those with extended contracts, may not be required to leave CE, until a suitable replacement has been referred to the scheme.

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.