A Galway TD has called for a relaxation of rules that he claims are forcing people back on the Dole after they have reached a limit of time spent working on Community Employment Schemes.
Deputy Noel Grealish said that it would cost the state very little to extend the number of years that people aged over 50 could work on the CE schemes, which currently employ almost 1,500 people in Galway.
“I am appealing for a change in the rules for people in this age group in particular, most of whom unfortunately have little chance of finding other work.
“And in reality, this is more than a matter of money — this work plays a huge role in the well-being of so many people, who are given a great measure of self-worth and a sense of purpose they may have had eroded by an inability to find other work,” said the Galway West Independent TD.
Currently, people aged under 55 cannot spend more than three years over their lifetime on the schemes, with a lifetime cumulative limit of six years for those over 55.
But Deputy Grealish said that, based on information he received in response to a Parliamentary Question, there was no great difference between the costs of keeping someone on a CE Scheme and the cost of paying them Dole.
There are currently 71 Community Employment Schemes in Galway, with 1,479 places, he was informed by Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection, Kevin Humphreys.
The Minister added that the average annual cost of a CE place for one year, including income support and all other costs such as training fees, material costs and supervision, was approximately €15,000.
He said that there was a standard minimum rate of payment of €210.50 per week paid to people on CE schemes.
“That’s just a couple of hundred euro more a year than paying Jobseeker’s Allowance to a single person or someone without dependants.
“Isn’t it much better to be spending this money on employing people who can do valuable work, on schemes that are important to their local communities, than forcing people who’d rather be doing something constructive, back on the Dole,” said Deputy Grealish.
“I would like to see the cap lifted on the number of years that people over 50 can work on such schemes, and more investment in expanding the schemes.
“The role played by workers on some CE schemes during the recent flooding crisis around the country shows that they can play an important part in the life of their local communities.
“With a little more creative thinking, the CE schemes could be expanded to full gaps in services that would give th Exchequer a great return for a small investment,” added Deputy Grealish.
He said that while a pilot scheme had started this year removing the cap from people aged over 62, he would like to see this extended to those over 50.