As the Deputy is aware, the Department of Social Protection delivers a range of employment and income support schemes including Community Employment (CE), Tús and the Rural Social Scheme (RSS). The aims of CE and Tús schemes are to enhance the employability of disadvantaged and long-term unemployed people by providing valuable work experience opportunities, while CE also provides training supports for participants.
RSS is an income support programme that provides part-time employment opportunities within community and voluntary organisations in local areas for farmers, fishermen and fisherwomen in receipt of Farm/Fish Assist, or certain other social welfare payments, and who are underemployed in their primary occupation.
I am very aware of the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 emergency and the related public health restrictions, including the impact CE and Tús schemes in recruiting new participants. My Department has continued to support CE and Tús schemes throughout the period and introduced a number of contingency measures including the extension of CE and Tús participants’ contracts on a number of occasions.
At present, CE and Tús schemes are benefitting from the extension of over 18, 000 CE and just over 5,000 Tús participants' contracts up until 4th February 2022. After this date, these participants will leave schemes on a phased basis up to January 2023. This will ensure that participants are able to fully avail of the work experience and training opportunities available, enable schemes to maintain local community services, while the newer cohort long term unemployed persons are referred to fill places and avail of these opportunities.
My Department's activation services have returned in full and my officials are prioritising the referral and recruitment of eligible jobseekers to CE and Tús. Time spent on PUP will count towards eligibility for unemployed persons participation on CE and Tús and will provide valuable opportunities for those persons whose jobs may not return post COVID.
My Department officials are continuing to work with local CE sponsoring authorities and Tús implementing bodies to refer suitable CE and Tús candidates to fill places on schemes. CE sponsoring authorities can advertise vacancies on www.jobsireland.ie, the Department’s online job advertising and recruitment service for jobseekers and employers. Jobseekers are advised to register their interest through this website or by contacting a case officer in their local Intreo Centre who will refer eligible candidates to local CE schemes.
Participation on RSS is by self-selection with applications made directly to one of the implementing bodies that deliver the scheme locally. Implementing bodies are required to promote and publicise RSS and aim to fill those places assigned to them by the Department. RSS continues to be promoted through the Department and eligible candidates are referred to RSS implementing bodies where they express an interest.
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 and RSS participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities throughout the country. I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.