BY JACKIE KEOGH
BY limiting the amount of time a person can work on a ‘Community Employment’ scheme to three years, the Department of Social Protection is restricting people, limiting rural development, and putting a damper on community projects, according to a Sinn Féin councillor.
A motion, calling on the Department of Social Protection to review its current restrictions was tabled by Cllr Paul Hayes at a meeting of the Western Committee, and it was so well supported that the chairman Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) suggested it be sent forward to a full meeting of the Council for a more in-depth discussion.
Cllrs Hayes described as ‘short-sighted’ the fact that there is a restriction preventing some people from working on a Community Employment (CE) scheme beyond three years. He said: ‘CE workers provide a great service to organisations within their community and exceptions should be allowed, especially in rural areas. This would allow a CE worker to continue to work beyond the current limits and it would be of mutual benefit to both the worker and the organisation.’
The Community Employment programme is designed to help people who are long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged people to get back to work by offering part-time and temporary placements in jobs based within local communities. Participants are entitled to take up other part-time work during their placement, but afterwards they are encouraged to seek permanent part-time and full-time jobs elsewhere, based on the experience and new skills they have gained while in a Community Employment scheme.
Cllr Hayes said there are approximately 1,000 CE schemes throughout the country at any one time, providing services that range from childcare to community support and drug rehabilitation.
The ‘lifetime cumulative participation’ on Community Employment scheme by an individual is limited to three years for people under the age of 55, and six years for people between the ages of 55 and 65.
The councillor said he believes: ‘This system works fine for some applicants, but not for others who are still unable to find employment after completing their time on the scheme.’
And he also expressed his support for a pilot scheme that was introduced last December, which allows some applicants aged over 62, who have already participated in a scheme for six years, to be extend their working term until retirement age.