Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, has announced changes to the Community Employment (CE ) programme.
CE Schemes are designed to help people who are long-term unemployed to get back to work by offering part-time and temporary placements in jobs based within local communities, such as with Tidy Towns and GAA clubs.
Eligibility restrictions and increased competition from JobPath had resulted in a drop in the number of people available to take on these roles of late. As it stood, those who wished to partake in the scheme needed to be at least 25 years old, those under the age of 55 were permitted to undertake schemes for up to six years, while those 55 years and older were restricted to three years.
Minister Varadkar has acted to lower the qualification age for CE Schemes to 21 and has also extended the period that people aged 55 and over can undertake a scheme for, while also allowing its participants to undertake a second scheme at the same time.
These changes come in the wake of a meeting between a delegation of CE supervisors, led by Athlone mayor John Dolan, and Minister Varadkar in early December, 2016.
Mayor Dolan has commended the changes to the scheme: “We outlined changes that we felt were urgently needed within Community Employment schemes, with the supervisors highlighting obstacles and deficits they were experiencing on the ground,” he said. “The Minister was receptive to these points and agreed with some of the main issues outlined.
“I understand that the Department are proposing a two-strand approach segmenting CE places into activation and social inclusion slots from early 2017. Currently the standard minimum age for entry on CE is 25 years. We felt this was too old and excluded a large group from participating. I understand from the Minister that this will be changed to 21 years of age for new CE and Tús/Gateway places.
“We have also gotten a commitment that those over 55 years can remain for three years on a CE placement. Persons over 62 can currently remain on CE up to State Pension age. This is very positive news and shows a level of understanding and willingness to engage from the Minister and the Government.”