Fianna Fáil TD for Offaly, Barry Cowe,n says he backs proposals to reform the Community Employment Programme.
Deputy Cowen made the comments after meeting with representatives of the scheme, and will be seeking an urgent meeting with Minister Varadkar.
The scheme 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.
Deputy Cowen said, “I recently met with representatives from the Community Employment Programme who outlined the serious concerns that they have over the future of the scheme. They pointed out that the new Job Path programme unveiled by the Department of Social Protection has placed an unnecessary burden on the CE scheme. I am seeking an urgent meeting with Minister Varadkar. He needs to meet with Offaly TD’s and representatives of CE schemes to discuss the problems they face.
“There are currently 349 participants in Offaly assisting over 160 groups in the community and voluntary sector. There are a further 116 participants in the health and social care sector who provide assistance to 248 people in our community. These services include the delivery of day care support and the provision of personal assistants to help people with disabilities. Currently the CE scheme provides 117,624 hours of health care service each year alone.
“There are serious concerns that the new JobPath programme could prevent people from entering the CE scheme. JobPath currently has priority access to the list of long-term unemployed and there is evidence that participants for CE schemes is dying up as a result of this. We can’t allow a situation develop where the CE scheme is squeezed out of operation as this will have a detrimental impact on local communities in Offaly.
“I believe the CE scheme needs to be changed so that it has equal access to the database of long term unemployed. A new referral system is also needed to allow people take up a placement under a CE scheme should a vacancy arise. One thing is certain - we can’t allow the cannibalisation of the CE scheme. The unemployment rate in the Midlands is currently 11.6% and the CE scheme is important in helping get people back to work,” concluded Deputy Cowen.