Carey challenges Minister O Cuiv to expand community employment programme

Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey has challenged Minister Eamon O Cuiv to initiate an expanded community works scheme.

Deputy Carey was speaking during a Social Protection Select Committee, when he outlined the situation regarding the lack of training and suitable education places for unemployed. Currently, the unemployment rate in County Clare is above the national average. Up to the end of March 2010, the number of people on the Live Register rose by almost 18%, with the Mid West Region showing the biggest increase at 20%.

Deputy Carey outlined the fact that many young constituents are now finding huge difficulty securing suitable employment and training opportunities. He pressed the Minister to consider an expanded community works scheme, which would help alleviate the spectre of long term unemployed.

Deputy Carey’s questioning of the Minister was reported on Oireachtas Report. See here (14mins):

Deputy Carey said: “As part of my work in the Social Protection Select Committee, I took part in analysis and debate of the Social Welfare Bill 2010. I put forward my concerns that there is now a real and growing issue with young people all over County Clare and nationally who are out of work and training for long periods of time. We currently have 439,000 persons unemployed in Ireland, and the unemployment rate in County Clare continues to rise above the national average. What people are saying to me is that they want to make a contribution to the community they live in. Currently though, there is a limit to the community employment spaces available.

In the select committee, Minister O’Cuiv made the point that anyone on social welfare should be entitled to advance towards training. But the resources are not being directed for enough additional spaces and many of the courses on offer are unsuitable for the applicants. Therefore, I believe that an expanded community works scheme would benefit hugely not just the unemployed, but also the community as a whole. The work could include improving the infrastructure of a local area, or assisting in community programmes.

Minister O’Cuiv has indicated to me that he is considering such a scheme and I am encouraging him to make this a reality.

Currently, we know that 30,000 persons are involved in such existing schemes, from FAS programmes to rural social schemes. Compared to the number of persons on the live register at present, that is a small number of places. It needs to be expanded. The costs would be somewhere in the region of €8000 per applicant. I believe the budget must be found. We cannot allow another generation to be weighed down by the inactivity of long-term unemployment.”