I propose to take Questions Nos. 980 and 1014 together.
Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis.
As the Deputy is aware, my Department has continued to provide funding and support for CE schemes since the onset of the Covid-19 emergency in March 2020. A number of CE schemes, which provide essential community services, were in a position to continue to deliver these services, while complying with public health restrictions in place at differing times over the past year.
During each period of Level-5 restrictions, CE participants, whose contracts were due to end during these restrictions, have had their contracts extended for the duration of these restrictions, as a minimum.
Earlier this month, Minister Humphreys and I announced a further CE contract extension for participants, up until 2nd July 2021. Over 7,000 CE and Tús participants will benefit from this latest contract extension, that applies to all participants whose contracts have been due to finish since end-October, 2020.
It is important to note that when CE participants are eventually due to finish on their respective schemes after the 2nd July, their exit will be undertaken on a coordinated, phased basis over a number of months. This will support the ongoing delivery of services by schemes and also assist with the recruitment of future candidates to the schemes.
The latest extension will provide many participants with additional time to complete their training and work experience on CE. Where a CE participant finishes up on CE scheme without completing the training outlined in their Individual Learning Plan (ILP) and if unfortunately they remain unemployed, they may continue their development through a range of training supports provided by my Department such as the Training Support Grant (TSG) and the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA). Department case officers will engage with the former CE participant to discuss the available options.
The priority for my Department is to ensure that all employment and activation programmes have the best outcomes for participants. CE will continue to be made available to support those who are long term unemployed and furthest removed from the labour market, while maintaining the role of CE as an active labour market programme.
I am fully committed to the future of these programmes and will continue to support and improve the programmes for the benefit of the CE & Tús participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities through the provision of services.
I trust this clarifies matters.