Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan Brendan Smith has welcomed major reforms to the Community Employment (CE) and Rural Social Schemes (RSS), which were announced this week.
Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “The need for these reforms has been signposted for some time now and I am delighted to see them coming into play. As part of the changes announced today, participants over 60 can now remain on CE and RSS until retirement; a CE participant whose term has expired will be allowed to remain on their scheme until a replacement participant is found and improvements are also being introduced to increase and strengthen the process of referring unemployed candidates to CE schemes.
“Meanwhile, the so-called baseline year will be updated from 2007 to 2014 and will continue to be updated on a yearly basis to remain at 7 years behind the current calendar year.”
The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “Within our communities, CE and RSS support a range of vital local services such as childcare, meals on wheels, the maintenance and upkeep of local amenities and other important work.
“As we have all seen, the pandemic has placed pressure on these services and it is hoped that these changes can help alleviate some pressure now and bring in positive changes for the future. These schemes continue to provide valuable work experience and training opportunities for the long term unemployed,” Deputy Smith concluded.
The purpose of CE is two-fold; to support long-term unemployed people to gain work experience and training to assist them in finding employment opportunities in the open labour market whilst also providing vital services in local communities.
Some 850 CE schemes deliver a wide range of key community services, particularly in disadvantaged and rural areas. There are over 19,000 people availing of CE, with a budget of €340 million this year.
The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) is an income support scheme that provides part-time employment opportunities for underemployed farmers who receive specific social welfare payments. There are almost 3,000 people availing of RSS at present, with a budget of €52 million for 2021.
Generally, participants have the opportunity to continue to avail of a CE scheme for one to three consecutive years, up to a maximum of six years in total. Participants over age 62 can currently remain on CE until they reach retirement age, subject to certain conditions. Since 2017, the maximum time allowed on RSS is six years for new entrants.
The new improvements will extend the time some participants are allowed to continue to avail of CE – mainly categories of participants who tend to find it most difficult to secure employment once their time on their scheme ends. These improvements will also further support schemes delivering vital services to local communities.
Interdepartmental Working Group
The Interdepartmental Working Group Report has also been published which looked at the most appropriate organisational arrangements to manage CE social inclusion schemes. The recommendations in this report will now be reviewed in light of the changed circumstances arising from the pandemic. The report is available at: www.Gov.ie/dsp
Expanding Contracted Public Employment Services
Furthermore, following agreement by Government, the Department of Social Protection has now published Requests for Tenders for the expansion of employment services across the entire State. The Intreo Local Area Employment Service RFT for Phase 2 has been published. This will extend the service across the remaining 19 counties (7 counties were procured under Phase 1 earlier this year).
In addition, the new Intreo National Employment Service RFT will be published in early January. These RFTs will ensure the Department’s contracted employment services for jobseekers are placed on a sound legal footing and ensure there is sufficient capacity across the State to respond to the needs of those seeking employment.
To ensure continuity of service provision through the continued referral of jobseekers to the Department’s existing service partners, and while these procurement processes are underway, the Department is extending its contracts with Local Employment Services, JobPath and Job Clubs (in the Phase 2 areas) until the end of June 2022. The new services the Department is procuring are due to commence from July 2022.
Note to Editors:
Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged people with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis.
The CE sponsoring authorities employ participants to deliver a range of services to local communities throughout the country. As well as contributing to the delivery of local services, CE participants develop a range of occupational skills and work experience that help to improve their own prospects of securing full-time employment.
The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) is an income support scheme that provides part-time employment opportunities for farmers and fishermen and women in receipt of specified social welfare payments, and who are underemployed in their primary occupation.
RSS is specifically designed and delivered to certain qualified people of working age whose income falls below certain limits. The valuable work undertaken by participants draws on their existing skills which may be further developed and shared throughout their participation.
The types of work CE and RSS participants are involved in include local amenities management, environmental projects, arts and culture, sports, childcare, Tidy Towns, health-related services, meals on wheels and drug rehabilitation schemes.