On clarification with the Deputy the question refers to Community Employment schemes
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.
In general CE placements for new entrants aged between 21 and 55 years are for 1 year. As the Deputy may be aware, CE participants who are working towards a Quality and Qualifications Ireland or QQI major award can seek to extend their participation on CE by up to 2 years to enable them to reach the required standard of qualification. CE participants aged 55 years or older can remain on CE for 3 years and do not have to work towards a QQI major award. A number of CE participants who are aged over 55 who commenced on the scheme before 2017 can stay on CE for six consecutive years. Therefore, CE participants across a range of cohorts have considerable periods of time to complete the training and development elements of CE. Training received by CE participants is an essential components of the CE schemes which I fully support.
As the Deputy is aware, my Department continued to support CE schemes since the onset of the Covid-19 emergency back in March 2020. A number of schemes, providing essential community services, have also been in a position to continue to deliver these services, while complying with public health restrictions.
During Level-5 restrictions, CE participants, whose contracts were due to end, have had their contracts extended for the duration of those restrictions. The current extension date is up to the 2nd July 2021. Over 7,000 CE and Tús participants are benefitting from this extension of contract, that applies to all participants whose contracts were due to finish since end-October 2020. This extension date is under active review, in line with the gradual opening up of the economy and the recommencement of more normal service levels across more CE schemes over the coming months, as the vaccine continues to be rolled out.
It is important to note that when CE participants are eventually due to finish on their respective schemes, this will be undertaken on a coordinated, phased basis over a number of months. This will provide further opportunities for the completion of training and additional work experience for CE participants.
With the gradual opening up of the economy , the scaling up of the Department's activation services and the resumption of more normal level of services across more CE schemes, increasing referrals to fill vacancies on CE schemes is a priority for my Department.
In addition, CE sponsoring authorities are encouraged by the Department to continue to promote the benefits of CE in their local communities. They can advertise their vacancies on www.jobsireland.ie, the Department’s online job advertising and recruitment service for job candidates and employers, including CE sponsors. Jobseekers are advised to register their interest through this website or by contacting a case officer in their local Intreo Centre who will determine their eligibility for the CE scheme. The facility to register interest in CE schemes was introduced on the website in August 2020 in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.
I am fully committed to the future of CE and will continue to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the CE participants, including participants whose participation has been affected by COVID.
I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.