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Community Employment Schemes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 3 December 2020

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Ceisteanna (8)

Alan Dillon


8. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to increase the number of places on community employment, CE, schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39720/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (7 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Social)

What are the Minister of State's plans to increase the number of places on the CE scheme? Will he make a statement on the matter?

The CE scheme is a State employment scheme that provides the opportunity for long-term unemployed people to contribute to their communities while at the same time upskilling themselves for employment opportunities that will become available. CE placements can play an important role in breaking the cycle of long-term unemployment for some and improve their chances of employment.

As part of the July job stimulus, the Government announced 3,000 additional places on State employment schemes, including CE and Tús. My departmental officials will work with CE-sponsoring authorities to make the additional CE placements available to suitable initiatives, subject to the agreed scheme qualification criteria.

The CE budget for 2020 is €364 million. At the end of October 2020, there were 19,244 participants in the scheme. While referrals to CE schemes can continue during the period of public health restrictions, the number of new placements has obviously been impacted by both the need for some schemes to suspend or reduce operations and the fact that Department staff have been redeployed to support the payment of the pandemic unemployment payment. During this period, CE-sponsoring authorities were supported in extending the placements of people whose placements were due to end and were encouraged to promote awareness of the benefits of CE and CE schemes in their communities, ensuring the CE vacancies were well publicised. They can advertise their existing CE vacancies free of charge on the Department’s JobsIreland website.

As restrictions are lifted, my Department will work collaboratively with CE sponsors to identify and refer candidates not just to fill existing CE vacancies but also to establish and fill the additional places provided under the July jobs stimulus package. I am fully committed to the future of this programme and I will continue to support and improve it for the benefit of the CE participants and because of the valuable contribution being made to local communities.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I recognise the full value of the CE schemes, especially for participants in rural communities. They provide vital social and community services that otherwise could not be afforded by many organisations. These include childcare, including early childhood care, environmental and resource work, bus driving, caretaking and other work of this kind. They are very much part of the local voluntary and sports organisations. Participants do fantastic work within their communities. It is crucial that we broaden the CE schemes to include a greater number of people on the live register and that we standardise conditions in respect of duration, pay and the training budget allocated for each scheme.

I would like to get an understanding of what we are doing to improve the budget around training and make it more attractive for participants to uptake into the CE schemes.

Question No. 30, in my name, is identical to Question No. 8 and I cannot understand why they are not grouped.

With regard to the additional places that are being made available, what policy, if any, does the Minister have to include people with disabilities and those from disadvantaged areas, migrant backgrounds, the Traveller community and so on? Does he have any breakdown on the gender issues with respect to community employment and Tús schemes? How many men and women are in those schemes?

I do not have that data to hand but I am committed to ensuring that the groups the Deputy mentioned get access to the CE scheme. That is high on our agenda. CE is focused on the long-term unemployed and it is important to keep that in mind. In March next year, another group of people, hopefully not too large, will qualify for CE. We will be looking at the profile of people who most need assistance and targeting it where it belongs.

We understand that the CE scheme is used as a stepping stone back to employment and that positions are neither full time nor sustainable over a long period of time. I am aware that the former Minister, now Senator Doherty, agreed to an interdepartmental group, IDG, to explore social inclusion schemes. The current Minister previously mentioned that she recently chaired a group meeting. Can she provide an update on where that IDG report is at and when it will be published?

The IDG report is with the Department and under consideration at the moment. I am not sure if it is going to get published by the end of the year but it is under consideration. I hope we will see it early in the new year.