Dáil Éireann - Volume 663 - 14 October, 2008

Written Answers. - Community Employment Schemes.

Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding persons over the age of 55 years seeking positions on community employment schemes who have previously been participants in schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34928/08]

  Deputy Mary Coughlan: Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. The programme helps unemployed people to progress to the open labour market by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine and assists them in enhancing/developing both their technical and personal skills.

To cater for older workers in particular, in November 2004 the 3 year CE capping was revised to allow those of 55 years of age and over to avail of a 6-year period on CE (based on participation since 3rd April, 2000). This was introduced in recognition of the fact that older participants may find it more difficult to progress into the open labour market.

The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context, with consideration given to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community. However, it should be remembered that, in so far as participants remain or return to CE, they are precluding someone else from benefiting from the programme. FÁS makes every effort to ensure that differing levels of demand between neighbouring schemes are equalised. FÁS also operates the programme flexibly as far as possible to ensure the continuation of community projects.

For a person to be considered for re-entry to Community Employment 12 months need to have elapsed since any previous participation and he/she must have been on the Live Register for that 12 month period. This is entirely subject to the availability of places, local demand and equity of opportunity to eligible long term unemployed people.

In conclusion then, I would say that this Government will continue to support the positive role of CE in meeting the needs of long-term unemployed persons while at the same time providing essential services to communities. In this regard, we are keeping the operation of the Scheme under constant review.