Know Your Rights: Community Employment Scheme

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Know Your Rights has been compiled by 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 programme (more commonly known as the ‘CE Scheme’).

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

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

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Community Employment sponsors are the voluntary organisations or public bodies that manage CE schemes at a 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 aged between 21 and 55 years

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

• Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB)
• Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA)
• Jobseeker’s Transitional payment (JST)
• One-Parent Family Payment (OFP)
• Deserted Wife’s Benefit
• Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s Contributory Pension
• Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s Non-Contributory Pension or
• Farm Assist

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

If you are aged 55 years and over

You must be getting a qualifying social welfare payment for 12 months – as outlined above.

You can stay on CE for a maximum of 3 consecutive years. It may also be possible to re-qualify for CE after a further 12 months on a qualifying payment.

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If you are aged 60 years and over

CE participants aged 60 years and over who meet the eligibility requirements may stay continuously on CE up to the age at which they qualify for a State pension, providing there are places available. The current qualifying age for all State pensions is 66.

Other ways to qualify for CE Including Qualified Adult Pilot

Under the “Qualified Adult (QA) on a Community Employment Scheme: Pilot” – if you are a QA on your spouse, partner, civil partner or cohabitant’s Jobseekers Allowance claim and they meet the eligibility for CE, you may be eligible to participate in CE. Please note that this CE eligibility option is open to QAs as part of a pilot scheme since 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 years and over and you are:

• Getting Disability Allowance, Blind Pension or Invalidity Pension, or
• Getting Illness Benefit for at least 6 months, or
• A member of the Traveller or Roma community, unemployed and getting Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance for any length of time or One-Parent Family Payment for at least 1 year, or
• A person with refugee status and getting any DSP payment for any length of time, or
• Referred following an appropriate assessment according to the National Drugs Rehabilitation Framework protocols, an ex-offender who has been referred by the Probation Service or other designated service, or an ex-offender not referred by a designated service who has been getting JA or JB for 12 months.

How long can I stay on the CE scheme?

If you are aged between 21 and 55 years, your CE placement generally lasts for one year. However, if you are working towards a major education award, your CE placement can be extended by up to 2 years to complete this award. You won’t get an extension beyond 3 years (or 4 years for people on a disability-linked social welfare payment).

If you are aged over 55, you can stay on CE for 3 consecutive years.  If you are aged 60 years and over and meet the CE eligibility requirements, you can stay continuously on CE until you qualify for a State pension, once you meet the terms and conditions of the scheme and providing that there are places available.

Working on a CE scheme

You must work for 19.5 hours per week (excluding breaks) for your sponsor to be eligible for a grant towards the cost of wages. You are paid weekly by your sponsor and you have certain statutory employment rights including annual leave, public holidays, maternity leave and a written statement of your terms and conditions of employment. Tax may be deducted from your pay, if applicable, but your CE pay is exempt 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 do not pay any 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 get training as part of your CE scheme to help improve your ability to get a job when the scheme is over. Everyone on a CE scheme must have an individual learning plan where training is identified. You must be allowed to join in any approved training that has been identified on your individual learner plan.”

There are a range of recognised QQI Awards and qualifications available to CE participants. If you are between 21 and 55 you must be working towards a QQI Award on the NFQ Framework of Qualifications or an industry equivalent, to be eligible for up to an additional 2 years on CE (maximum total of 3 consecutive years). If you are 55 or over you should be given access to training and development, and supported with any issues you have accessing employment (you can stay on CE for 3 consecutive years).

Extra benefits of the CE scheme

“You will keep your medical card when you are on CE.  You will also keep your entitlement to the extra benefits you were getting immediately before going onto CE, provided you continue to satisfy the conditions for these benefits.”

Rate of Payment

Since January 2024 the minimum weekly payment for new participants based on 19.5 hours worked is €259.50.

If the actual social welfare payment (including dependants) you were getting was €232 a week or less, then you will get the minimum CE weekly rate of €259.50 (that is €232 plus €27.50).

If your actual weekly social welfare payment (including dependants) 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, it will not affect your CE payment. However, the rules on change of circumstances that apply to your original social welfare payment also apply to your CE payment.

For example, if your qualified adult gets 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 participate in the Community Employment scheme, you can register at your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.

• For anyone needing information, advice or have an advocacy issue, you can call a member of the local Citizens Information team in Kerry on 0818 07 7860, they will be happy to assist and make an appointment if necessary.

The offices are staffed from Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.  Alternatively you can email on tralee@citinfo.ie or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie for further information.

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