The Community Employment (CE) placements are categorised into two strands, Social Inclusion and Activation. The Social Inclusion placements are generally taken up by adults who need additional supports: for example, people from very disadvantaged backgrounds, people with mental health issues, refugees, those requiring drug rehabilitation and ex-offenders. CE schemes with a number of social inclusion particpants tend to be engaged in significant levels of local service support.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Government agreed to establish an Interdepartmental Group (IDG) to explore how these social inclusion/social services schemes might best be organised into the future including which Department should hold lead responsibility for sponsoring CE schemes focused on social Inclusion / social services. As part of the deliberations of the Group it is intended that consultation will take place with key stakeholders and community groups.
My Department’s main focus in its role of providing essential income supports and offering a public employment service has to remain on supporting people from the Live Register to progress into paid employment. In this regard, for us, the role of CE is that of a stepping-stone from long-term unemployment towards paid employment. That is not to disregard the valuable role that CE plays in delivering community services or to disregard the fact that for some people CE may provide the best long-term outlet in the form of occupational activity. That is why I strongly support the continuation of social inclusion / social services CE schemes. However, I have to recognise that, with the welcome and ongoing reduction in the Live Register, we may not be able, in the years to come, to guarantee a sufficient flow of participants to sustain these schemes. Accordingly, I sought and received Government approval to set up the interdepartmental group to examine this issue with a view to ensuring the continued viability of these schemes.
The IDG will comprise of officials from my own Department and officials at Principal Officer level or equivalent from the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform; Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Rural and Community Development; Children and Youth Affairs; Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Health; Justice and Equality and Housing, Planning and Local Government.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.