Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Ceisteanna (86, 87, 88, 89)

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

157 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress which has been made in relation to the fundamental review of training and employment supports to focus on the needs of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups to help them to progress to the open labour market which was promised in the programme for Government; her views on whether the cuts in community employment places since June 2002 will seriously hamper efforts to facilitate marginalised and disadvantaged groups who are attempting to progress from welfare to work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3762/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Upton

Ceist:

159 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of community employment schemes at January 2000, January 2001, January 2002, January 2003 and January 2004; the number that will be available at the end of 2004; if her attention has been drawn to the severe difficulties being created for community and voluntary organisations by the reduction in community employment places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3777/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

169 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position with regard to the various reviews or studies of community employment schemes commissioned or undertaken by her Department; the main findings of each; if she intends to publish the reports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3776/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

175 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the review of training and employment supports to focus on the needs of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups to help them to progress to the open labour market which was promised in the programme for Government has commenced; if this review is examining the role of community employment schemes both in terms of allowing disadvantaged groups learn new skills to help them move from welfare to work and in terms of service provision to marginalised and disadvantaged communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4023/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157, 159, 169 and 175 together.

The total funding allocation for employment schemes in 2004 has been fixed at €351 million, which will support up to 25,000 places across the three employment schemes, that is, community employment, CE, jobs initiative and social economy. FÁS is being given some flexibility in the management of this financial allocation to maximise progression to the labour market while at the same time facilitating the support of community services. This allocation, €351 million, is similar to the budgeted amount provided in 2003. Accordingly, there will be no reduction in the total level of provision for the three schemes or in the combined participation levels in 2004.

The review of active labour market programmes, including community employment, job initiative, education and training and back to work programmes, which was mandated by the PPF and outlined in the programme for Government, has concluded without reaching a group consensus on the various elements of the review. The standing committee on the labour market, chaired by my Department, undertook the review. It proved impossible to reconcile the various views and expectations of members, which included representation from the community and voluntary sector, employers and unions in addition to other Departments, particularly with regard to the future of community employment. After a period of some 21 months of deliberations the process was brought to an end in December 2003. However, it is important to emphasise that the input from individual representatives was considerable, and will inform future policy decisions.

As part of this review process Indecon International Economic Consultants was commissioned by my Department on behalf of the standing committee to facilitate a rigorous assessment of the overall effectiveness of existing programmes, and to help inform the deliberations of the standing committee. The consultant's report was finalised and brought to the standing committee in November 2002. This report will be published on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment website in the near future.

The future structure of the CE programme remains under review by a group of senior officials and FÁS, and this group will report to Ministers on the outcome of their deliberations shortly.

In deciding the financial allocation for employment schemes for 2004, the Government was informed by the work to date of the cross-departmental senior officials group. The commitment to fund a continuing pool of up to 25,000 places across the three schemes brings clarity not only to the levels of activity which will be supported but will enable FÁS to give a clear commitment to the support of local community services.

FÁS has also undertaken a review of CE and jobs initiative and has indicated that this report will be published in due course. The number of CE projects since January 2000 are as follows:

Year

Projects

January 2000

2,274

January 2001

2,041

January 2002

1,967

January 2003

1,694

January 2004

1,368

December 2004 (estimate)

1,325