Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare North has called on the Government to urgently address shortcomings with Community Employment Schemes, and in particular the Tús scheme. Deputy O’Rourke made the comments after raising the issue in the Dáil with Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar.

The Tús initiative is a community work placement scheme which provides working opportunities for unemployed people.

Deputy O’Rourke said, “The Tús initiative is an important scheme which allows unemployed people to get work experience in a community based setting. The aim of the scheme is to ease people back into employment. Participants in the scheme are assigned to community and voluntary organisations in both urban and rural areas. They carry out a wide range of tasks ranging from maintenance and upkeep works to childcare and caring for older people.

“People who participate in Tús schemes generally speak highly of their work placement, as do the community and voluntary organisations that they are assigned to. However outstanding problems have emerged with the scheme in recent times. Currently a person is only allowed participate on the scheme for a period of one year before they are asked to move to a different scheme. This has given rise to a shortage of people participating in the scheme. In turn this has led to a situation where there is a lack of continuity of work under the scheme.

“For example, if a participant is working on a long-term project then there is a high chance that they will have to vacate the scheme within a year before they complete their project. Meanwhile the lack of participants in the scheme means that a community or voluntary organisation might have to wait months before they are assigned another person under the scheme. The end result is that the long-term project usually ends up being mothballed.

“The current situation is unsatisfactory for many participants in the scheme as they feel they are being pushed out of the scheme too quickly, often before they have had a chance to gain the skills they need to secure permanent employment. The community and voluntary organisations are also being put off the scheme due to the lack of continuity of placements. This is a problem which needs to be addressed. One option available to the Government is to lift the mandatory restriction in place which prevents people from participating in the scheme for more than one year.

“I raised this matter in the Dáil with Minister Varadkar and he admitted that there are problems with the scheme which need to be addressed. He has given me an assurance that he will take on board my concerns and this is something which I will continue to monitor in the weeks ahead.”