Community employment (CE) is the largest employment programme administered by my Department. It aims to enhance employability and mobility by providing work experience and training opportunities for unemployed persons within their own communities.
A key function of CE is supporting social inclusion and counteracting the drift into structural unemployment. It is a broad and flexible programme that has been utilised to address many social challenges presenting at individual and/or societal level. 5% of CE placements are reserved to support the re-integration of participants referred to a CE place on a drug rehabilitation scheme through the delivery of the agreed inter-agency CE Drug Rehabilitation Programme within the CE Social Inclusion strand.
All CE placements are categorised as either a training/activation strand or a social inclusion strand. This is to acknowledge that not all CE places are the same. The Social Inclusion placements provide an opportunity for those who are very distant from the labour market to gain employment and deliver services in their local communities while the activation placements are more directly related to employment opportunities for participants who are long-term unemployed with a view to providing them with more labour market relevant work experience.
Deputies on all sides of the House are fully aware of the positive benefits derived from schemes like CE. Communities benefit from the skills and talents of participants and, in addition, participants are provided with the opportunity to improve existing skills, or develop new skills, while performing valuable work in their local communities. Furthermore, many CE schemes provide vital community services across the country, all of which are well embedded in these communities.
The Government agreed to establish an Interdepartmental Group (IDG) to explore the most appropriate organisational arrangements, in particular in respect of those CE schemes whose primary focus is social inclusion and the delivery of social services. The first meeting of the IDG was held on 26th March and my Department are currently engaging with key stakeholders.
I am fully committed to the future of this programme and will continue to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the participants and the valuable contribution it makes to local communities.