As part of the Government's decision in 1999 to restructure community employment, future participation in CE by an individual was capped at three years, effective from April 2000. This change was introduced to discourage repeated participation in CE and to encourage unemployed persons to avail of training or education options where possible, which are shown to have more successful progression outcomes for individuals. The three year cap was amended in August 2001 to allow particularly disadvantaged persons to remain on the programme for a further period.
In the case of people aged over 50, the three-year cap on participation has been removed where people in this age group, having spent three years on the programme, continue to experience difficulties in obtaining employment. Participants are considered for an extension if on reaching the end of their normal entitlements on CE they are likely to experience difficulty in getting employment due to their age, literacy or numeracy problems or a lack of suitable jobs available locally. FÁS has discretion to offer up to 20% of the total number of CE participants a further period on the programme on a case-by-case basis. The structure of the CE programme is under review. A decision on the future eligibility criteria for participants on CE will be taken when the current review process has been brought to a conclusion.