Updated: 11/04/17 : 06:34:17
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Protection measures for CE schemes will widen eligibility

A range of new Government measures designed to protect the future of Community Employment (CE) Schemes will widen the range of people in Co.Leitrim and Co.Sligo that can take part. That’s according to Fine Gael TD for Sligo – Leitrim, Tony McLoughlin.

“Thankfully the number of CE Scheme participants has fallen as the Live Register continues to fall. The latest CSO data for March shows that the Live Register has dropped by 30.8% in Co.Sligo and 36.8% in Co.Leitrim since the launch of Fine Gael’s Action Plan for Jobs in February 2012.

The national unemployment rate is now down to 6.4 %, which is down from 8.3 % a year ago and 15.2% when we launched our action plan for jobs in 2012.

“However it’s important that we begin to reform CE Schemes to ensure a greater number of long-term unemployed people here in Sligo and Leitrim can take up the places, gain valuable skills and experience, and support community services.

“There will be a strong focus on social inclusion in the future alongside the traditional purpose of helping people into the workforce. CE Schemes provide work experience and training for people who are long-term unemployed, but they also benefit communities across the county by supporting community services in childcare, health and social care, outdoor works and local facilities.

Here in Sligo the overall number of scheme places available in 2017 will be 718. CE will continue to be the largest programme this year with 460 places available. The balance will be made up of 122 placements in the Rural Social Scheme and 136 places in Tús. In Leitrim 329 scheme places will be available, with 155 being available for CE, 96 for Rural Social Scheme and 78 for Tús

“One of the key changes this year is a reduction in the entry age for CE Schemes from 25 to 21 years of age, allowing more young people to take part.

“My Fine Gael colleague, the Social Protection Minister, Leo Varadkar, also confirmed to me that it will be easier for previous participants to re-enter a scheme or get an extra year, as the cut-off year is being moved forward from 2000 to 2007.

“CE participants, working towards a major award, can now seek to extend participation by up to two years, while those over 55 years of age will be allowed to remain on CE for three years.

“I can also confirm the community and social benefits arising from many schemes will be safeguarded thanks to a new two strand approach, with places on schemes categorised as either social inclusion or activation.

“A guaranteed minimum number of places will be available in Sligo and Leitrim by linking the places to the number of people on the Live Register. This will better enable the Scheme to meet demand.

“Within the next three months, Minister Varadkar will also review the possibility of allowing more older people to stay on schemes for longer.    

“I have seen at first-hand how these programmes deliver both for unemployed people and for their communities. They support key services across Sligo and Leitrim including childcare, health and social care, sports clubs and community centres, and local amenities. That's why we are making CE schemes more flexible and putting in place new conditions which will open them to more people who are long-term unemployed, so that they continue delivering for participants and for their local area.”