Know your rights: Community Employment Scheme – traleetoday.ie

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Know Your Rights is compiled by the Kerry Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public

Today, Deirdre Vann Bourke, Development Manager with South Munster Citizens Information Service discusses the Community Employment program (commonly known as the CE Scheme).

This scheme is designed to help people who are long-term unemployed (or disadvantaged) back into work by offering part-time and temporary jobs in jobs based within local communities. It’s a great opportunity to learn new skills and build your confidence as you re-enter the workforce.

Deirdre continued; If you are a participant in the CE scheme, you can take other part-time jobs during your employment. After placement, you are encouraged to look for permanent work elsewhere, based on the experience and new skills you have gained during a community employment scheme.

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Community employment sponsors are voluntary organizations or public bodies that manage CE schemes at local level.

Am I eligible for the CE scheme?

How you qualify for a CE scheme depends on your age and your personal situation.

If you are between the ages of 21 and 55

In general, you must be unemployed. You must receive any combination of the following payments for at least 12 months:

Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB)
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA)
Job Seeker’s Transitional Payment (JST)
One-parent family payment (OFP)
Abandoned women benefit
Contributory pension for widows, widowers or surviving civil partners
Widow’s, widower’s or non-contributory surviving civil partner’s pensioner
Farm assistant

There are other schemes that count towards the qualifying period PUP, SWA, Carers Allowance for example. To check if you are eligible, please contact your local CIC or social welfare office.

If you are 55 or older

You must receive a qualifying social welfare payment for 12 months as described above.

You can stay on CE for a maximum of 3 consecutive years. It may also be possible to requalify for CE after another 12 months with a qualifying payment.

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If you are 60 or older

CE participants aged 60 and over who meet the eligibility requirements can stay on CE continuously until the age at which they qualify for a state pension, subject to places being available. The current qualifying age for all state pensions is 66.

Other ways to qualify for CE, including adult qualified pilot

According to Qualified Adults (QA) in a Community Employment Scheme: Pilot – if you are a SC on your spouse, partner, civil partner or cohabitant claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance and they qualify for CE, you may have eligible to participate in CE. Please note that this CE eligibility option is open to QA as part of a pilot scheme from 1 January 2023.

If you do not qualify for CE under the eligibility criteria for your age group above, you may still be eligible for the scheme if you are aged 18 or over and are:

Receiving disability allowance, blind pension or invalidity pension, or
Receiving sickness benefit for at least 6 months, or
Member of the Traveler or Roma community, unemployed and receiving jobseeker’s benefit or jobseeker’s allowance for any time or one-parent family allowance for at least 1 year, or
A person with refugee status and receiving any DSP payment for any time, or
Referred after an appropriate assessment under the protocols of the National Drug Rehabilitation Framework, an ex-offender who has been referred by the Probation Service or another designated service, or an ex-offender not referred by a designated service who has received JA or JB for 12 months.

How long can I stay on the CE scheme?

If you are between 21 and 55 years old, your CE placement usually lasts for one year. However, if you are working towards a major education award, your CE placement can be extended up to 2 years to complete this award. You will not get an extension of more than 3 years (or 4 years for people with a disability-related social welfare payment).

If you are over 55, you can stay on CE for 3 consecutive years. If you are aged 60 or over and meet the CE entry requirements, you can stay on CE continuously until you qualify for a state pension, once you have met the terms of the scheme and provided there are places available.

Working on a CE scheme

You must work 19.5 hours per week (excluding holidays) for your sponsor to qualify for a wage cost grant. You are paid weekly by your sponsor and have certain employment rights, including annual leave, public holidays, maternity leave and a written statement of your terms and conditions of employment. Tax can be deducted from your payment, if applicable, but your CE payment is excluded from the Universal Social Charge.

CE participants pay PRSI at class A8/A9, which counts as a full class A contribution. If your CE payment is less than 352 a week, you pay no employee contribution. If your CE payment is over £352 a week, you pay an employee PRSI contribution.

Training and development

This is a key aspect of the CE scheme says Deirdre, You will receive training as part of your CE scheme to help improve your ability to find a job when the scheme has finished. Everyone in a CE scheme must have an individual learning plan where the training is identified. You must be allowed to join any approved training that is identified in your individual learner plan.

There are a number of recognized QQI Awards and qualifications available to CE participants. If you are between 21 and 55 years old, you must be working towards a QQI award on the NFQ Qualification Framework or an industry equivalent, to qualify for up to 2 additional years of CE (maximum of 3 consecutive years in total). If you are 55 or over, you should be given the opportunity for training and development and should be supported with any problems you have in getting into employment (you can stay on CE for 3 consecutive years).

Additional benefits of the CE scheme

You will carry your medical card when you are in CE. You will also retain your right to the additional benefits you were receiving immediately before you went on CE, provided you continue to meet the conditions for these benefits.

Payment rate

From January 2024, the minimum weekly payment for new participants based on 19.5 hours of work is 259.50.

If the current social welfare payment (including dependents) you received was 232 a week or less, then you will get the minimum weekly CE rate of 259.50 (which is 232 plus 27.50).

If your current weekly social welfare payment (including dependents) was 232 or more, then you will get the same rate as your social welfare payment plus 27.50.

If you have any additional income

If you have any additional income, for example from part-time work, this will not affect your CE payment. However, the rules for changing circumstances that apply to your initial social welfare payment also apply to your CE payment.

For example, if your qualifying adult takes a job, their income will be assessed as means and your CE payment may be reduced. However, your CE payment cannot be reduced below the current minimum rate of 259.50

How to apply for the CE scheme

To take part in the community employment scheme, you can register at your local Intreo Center or Social Welfare Branch office.

For anyone who needs information, advice or has an advocacy problem, you can call a member of the local Kerry Citizens Information team on 0818 07 7860, they will be happy to help and arrange an appointment if it is required.

The offices are staffed Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Alternatively, you can email tralee@citinfo.ie or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie for further information.

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