Local Fianna Fáil councillor Frankie Keena has raised concerns about the future of CE Schemes.
Speaking a week after Dún na Sí Heritage and Amenity Park announced the loss of five CE Scheme workers, Cllr Keena said voluntary groups are now in trouble due to the amount of unemployed people being co-opted by Seetec.
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. However, the schemes terms dictate that people younger than 55 can only remain in positions for six years, while those older than 55 can only remain for three.
Seetec, on the other hand, is a private company which also works with people who are unemployed, providing them with training, support and a clear plan to obtain more long term employment. However, once a person on the Live Register signs up to Seetec they can no longer be considered for CE Scheme opportunities, meaning amenities like Dún na Sí lose out.
Cllr Keena spoke of the value of CE workers to places like Dún na Sí and urged his fellow councillors to support his call to write to the Minister for Social Protection to request a change in the scheme’s terms.
Cllr John Dolan (FG ) agreed that Seetec is a major issue in terms of the amount of people available to voluntary groups. He said Seetec is a private entity, meaning the more people it signs up the more money it makes, even if the employment opportunity it provides does not always suit the individual involved.
Cllr Dolan said the workers who recently left Dún na Sí were older than 55 years of age and were happy in their roles. He said he sees little sense in forcing these people into IT or other training, and into employment roles they have no interest in.
Cllr Dolan dismissed the cost of CE workers as an issue, considering they are paid just €20 on top of their social welfare for the work they undertake.
Councillors unanimously backed Cllr Keena’s call to invite Seetec representatives to Athlone to address these issues.
A letter will also be sent to the Department of Social Protection to request a change in the terms of CE Schemes.