Fine Gael Deputy Peter Burke has welcomed changes to Community Employment (CE ) Schemes.
A range of new measures have been introduced in order to protect the future of CE Schemes, which will widen the range of people in Westmeath who can take part.
One of the changes is a reduction in the entry age for CE Schemes from 25 to 21 years of age. Furthermore, CE participants working towards a major award can now seek to extend participation by up to two years, while those more than 55 years of age will be allowed to remain on CE for three years. A guaranteed minimum number of places will be available in Westmeath by linking the places to the number of people on the Live Register, enabling the scheme to meet demand.
“Thankfully the number of CE Scheme participants has fallen as the Live Register continues to fall,” Deputy Burke said. “The latest CSO data for March shows that the Live Register dropped by 29 per cent in Westmeath since the launch of Fine Gael’s Action Plan for Jobs in February 2012. The national unemployment rate is now down to 6.4 per cent, which is down from 8.3 per cent a year ago.
“However, it’s important that we reform CE Schemes to ensure a greater number of long-term unemployed people here in Westmeath can take up the places, gain valuable skills and experience, and support community services. There are currently 556 people on CE schemes in this county, with 129 more on Tús and 38 on the Rural Social Scheme.”
CE Schemes provide work experience and training for people who are long-term unemployed, but they also benefit communities across the county by supporting community services in childcare, health and social care, outdoor works, and local facilities.
“My Fine Gael colleague, Social Protection Minister, Leo Varadkar, also confirmed to me that it will be easier for previous participants to re-enter a scheme or get an extra year, as the cut-off year is being moved forward from 2000 to 2007,” Deputy Burke added.
“I have seen at first hand how these programmes deliver both for unemployed people and for their communities, especially in small villages across both North and South Westmeath.”