The community employment scheme is designed to help long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged persons to get back to work through part time and temporary placements in jobs based in local communities. Participants are encouraged to seek full time employment or part time jobs elsewhere based on the experience and skills obtained. The scheme is administered by the Department of Social Protection.
Community employment has two distinct options, each with eligibility requirements. There is a part time integration option and a part time job option. The scheme is managed and sponsored by a local organization and group. It arranges and administers the placement. It may offer training or skills development during placement.
Placements are generally for an average of 39 hours per fortnight. Participants are paid and have certain statutory employment rights. They may be subject to tax but are exempt from universal social charge. They pay a lower social PRSI rate, but it is deemed to be the full Class A rate.
The following are eligible for the part time integration option:
Persons aged 25 years and more who are in receipt of any of the following for more than 12 months;
- Jobseekers allowance or benefit
- One parent family payment
- Widowers’ contributory or non-contributory pension
- Farm assist
- Deserted wife’s benefit
Certain persons aged 18 years and over qualify
- Those in receipt of invalidity, disability allowance or pension or illness benefit
- Travellers in receipt of jobseekers benefit or allowance or one parent family payment
- Refugees over 18 years of age holding a green card or Garda registration certificate
- Persons over 18 years living on offshore island
- Spousal swap whereby an eligible person may transfer eligibility to a spouse or cohabitant
The are special versions of the scheme for those in drugs rehabilitation over 18 years
There are provision for reference by ex-offenders aged 18 years by the probation service, the prison service and certain other services.
- The Part time job option is open to much the same categories save that generally it is limited to Persons over 35 years of age and receiving the above benefits for three or more years.
- Persons over 35 in receipt of disability allowance, blind pension, inability pension or illness benefit for more than six months and
- Certain ex-offenders referred by prison or probation services also qualify.
In addition, certain other persons over 18 in the above categories also qualify.
The Department of Social Protection provides funding to community employers. The minimum weekly payment for new participants for 19.5 hours is €208. This is €20 over and above the base social welfare payment. The same assessment rules that apply to the original social welfare payment apply to the community employment payment.
As of early 2013, there were 25,300 persons on community employment schemes. Participants on the schemes after 2012 cannot claim other social welfare benefits at the same time. Existing participants on certain categories of payment continued to receive them until 2015.
Participants retain medical cards and are entitled to keep the benefits being received prior to going on to community employment provided they continue to comply with the conditions. They may be in a position to retain mortgage interest supplement and reduced rent supplement.
The CE payment is a separate payment but the underlying rules applicable to the social welfare payment apply. If there is a change in circumstances, this should be notified to the Department. If for example, a qualified adult obtains a job, his income is assessed as means and the CE payment may be reduced. A CE payment may include a payment for a qualified spouse. If he or she obtains employment, then the CE payment will be reduced.