Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 109.& 110 - Community employment schemes [28166/12].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 109.& 110 - Community employment schemes [28166/12]. (12 Jun 2012)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

110. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm the findings of the reviews she commissioned in relation to community employment schemes; the schemes that have been earmarked for closure; the cuts in materials and training grants planned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28164/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 110 together.

The budget for expenditure on community employment, CE, schemes in 2012 is €315 million in respect of 23,300 places, including approximately 1,400 supervisors. Responsibility for community employment schemes transferred to the Department of Social Protection with effect from 1 January 2012. Since this transfer Department of Social Protection staff, including former FÁS staff, 700 of whom are now integrated into the Department since 1 January, have been involved in a series of detailed discussions with CE sponsors. These discussions have shown that while notionally focussed on activation, in reality community employment programmes deliver a range of services from child care, health care, drugs support to environmental works.

The financial review of community employment schemes is near completion. This review has proved to be a valuable exercise for the schemes and the Department. Given the volume and breath of the data being returned and the requirement for staff to engage with each scheme, of which there are almost 1,000, the review has taken longer than originally envisaged to complete. The outcomes of the reviews will be communicated directly to CE sponsoring organisations by staff in the Department as soon as they are finalised and the overall provision has been agreed by Government. It should be possible to do that this month.

Owing to current economic circumstances, the Government had to find significant savings in the budget for 2012. However, the allowance grants for CE supervisors are unchanged, as are the working hours for staff employed under CE. There will also be no decrease in the number of CE places allocated in 2012. While no final allocation of materials and training grants has been made pending completion of the financial review, the existing commitment in relation to the financial support of schemes will continue to apply. No schemes have been earmarked for closure. The Government is committed to supporting the CE participants and the sponsors in continuing the valuable contribution the programme makes to individuals and communities.

Deputy Sean Fleming:
The Minister’s reply to these questions is seriously deficient in that it does not answer our question in regard to when the reviews will be completed, one of which, the value for money review, was to be completed by end March. I understand there is to be a third review, which will be a combination of the two earlier reviews. The Minister stated that the review is taking longer than expected. There were 1,000 schemes in place prior to commencement of the review and 1,000 will remain in place when it is completed. I do not understand the reason it was not possible to determine how long the review would take.

The Minister stated that she hopes to communicate by the end of this month with each of the sponsoring committees on how they are to continue and in relation to the materials and training grants situation. This could lead to further delay. By way of example, I would like to read a letter which I received yesterday from Mr. Michael Nestor, who is involved in a community employment scheme and deals with Offaly Personal Assistant Services Limited on this issue. He states no decision has been made on how its funding will continue. The company was told it would know by the end of April but it has not yet received any information despite a meeting having taken place between FÁS regional managers and the Department. Offaly Personal Assistant Services Limited provides services to people with physical and sensory disabilities. These people are the leaders while those participating in the scheme are the personal assistants.

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