Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar.
THE GOVERNMENT WANTS to make it easier for people to take part in community employment schemes and is to reduce the entrance age from 25 to 21.
The CE scheme is designed to help disadvantaged people or those in long-term unemployment gain work in the local community as a stepping stone to regular work.
Frequently though, the work is used to bridge a gap in local services and, while the schemes grew during the recession, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar claims it is getting more difficult to fill the places.
“Unemployment has gone down by two-thirds and as a result of that some very important CE schemes around the country, who do work that has to be done, you know meals on wheels, looking after graveyards, sports clubs, tidy towns they’re having great difficulty filling the vacancies in those essential schemes,” Varadkar told RTÉ’s News at One.
As well as reducing the age by which people can enter a scheme, it will also be made easier for people to re-enter a scheme or apply to extend it for a second year.
Those over 55 years of age will be allowed to remain on a CE scheme for three years.
The scheme has been running since 1994 and there are 32,000 places on CE schemes this year.
Based on 19.5 hours worked, the minimum payment rate for CE schemes is €215.50 per week. It is paid by sponsor which receives a grant from The Department of Social Protection.
The scheme is seen as having a dual role and those roles are to be formalised with places on the scheme soon to be categorised as being either social inclusion or activation.
Varadkar made reference to that dual role when asked about them this afternoon:
We’re going to protect the number of CE places, really recognising two things, that community employment isn’t just about employment activation but also about social inclusion, giving people who quite frankly, let’s be honest find it difficult to hold down a job and give them something worthwhile to do.
“And also recognising the fact that the work that they do is essential work that would have to be done anyway. In fact, probably should be done by local authorities and health services, but it’s not,” he added.