Kildare South Fine Gael TD and Minister Martin has confirmed that participants of Community Employment (CE) and TÚS schemes in Kildare whose contracts were due to finish over the period since last October will now benefit from a further extension up to the 2nd July.

Minister Martin Heydon said: “The work that CE and TÚS workers carry out in our communities is absolutely vital to local communities right across Kildare. It is this Government’s priority is to ensure that there is continuity and certainty for CE and TÚS schemes throughout the current restrictions.

“I absolutely value the contribution that CE and TÚS schemes make on a daily basis in our towns, villages clubs and parishes throughout Kildare. Community Employment needs to be viewed not just as an important employment and development support but also as an integral community service particularly in rural areas.

“The changes announced by my Fine Gael colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys and her Department colleague Minister of State Joe O’Brien, are an important first step and I am confident that through increased engagement with stakeholders, we can ensure that the important work carried out by CE and TUS schemes deliver maximum benefits both for workers and communities.”

Minister Heydon continued: “Under the Government’s July Stimulus Programme last year, approval was secured for 3,000 additional places to support CE and TÚS schemes. These additional places underline the Government’s commitment to CE and TUS and will provide opportunities for new schemes as well as facilitating more people on the existing schemes.

“Filling these additional places, as well as those arising from existing vacancies will be an absolute priority for Government, once the economy and society begins to move beyond Covid and public health restrictions ease.  It is intended to significantly scale up the numbers of referrals from local Intreo offices to CE and Tus once the country begins to reopen.”

Minister Heydon continued: “All of these measures will provide further certainty to CE schemes, participants and the important community services they provide, while supporting long term unemployed people during this challenging Covid environment.

“I would also like to re-assure participants of CE and TÚS projects that contracts due to end post 2nd July 2021, will be done on a planned and phased basis.”

At a meeting hosted by Ministers Humphreys and O’Brien with CE and TÚS project sponsors in January, the CE sponsors sought clarification regarding a change to the conditions relating to the participation on CE schemes that was introduced in July 2017. This change limited participation to a maximum period of 3 consecutive years.

The Ministers asked officials in the Department of Social Protection to review this issue and they have now confirmed that participants who were 55 years or older, at the time of the July 2017 rule change and who were already on a CE scheme at that time, are not affected by the change and have the option of remaining on CE for up to six consecutive years.

It was also confirmed that a new CE and TÚS Forum comprising representatives of CE and TÚS schemes and officials from the Department of Social Protection will be established shortly. The purpose of the Forum is to discuss and exchange views on operational issues impacting on both schemes.

Minister Heydon concluded: “In order to deliver maximum benefits for participants and communities, I believe it is vital that there is regular and ongoing engagement between the Department and those delivering these vital services on the ground.

“This new forum will be dedicated to sharing information with and hearing the views across both CE and TÚS sponsors on operational matters that impact on both schemes. This new forum will be very useful in informing future service developments for the longer term as we emerge from COVID-19.”