The Community Employment (CE) programme 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. Participants can take up other part-time work during their placement. After the placement, participants are encouraged to look for permanent jobs elsewhere, based on the experience and new skills they have gained while on a Community Employment scheme.
The Community Employment programme is administered by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). The DEASP gives financial support in the form of allowances and funding to assist with the Community Employment programme, for example participant wages, supervisor grants, materials grants and specific skills training grants. Community Employment sponsors are the voluntary organisations or public bodies that manage CE schemes at a local level.
Detailed information is available in the Community Employment procedures manual.
How you qualify for a CE scheme will depend 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
Note: If you are aged 21 and over, and are getting JB or JA, you can have worked up to 30 days in the 12 months before starting the CE scheme and still be eligible for the scheme.
Other schemes that count towards the qualifying period
- Time spent on the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will count towards the qualifying period for CE. Please note that if you are getting PUP, you must show that you have an entitlement to an existing social welfare payment for example Jobseekers Allowance before starting on a CE scheme.
- If you were getting basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) before getting one of the payments listed above, the time on SWA can also count towards the qualifying period for CE, provided there are no breaks between different payments – for example, if you spent 2 months on SWA followed immediately by 10 months on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- If you were getting Carer’s Allowance (CA), the time spent on CA can also count towards the eligibility period, but your caring responsibilities must have ceased and you must currently be getting either JA, JB or OFP.
- Time spent on a CE-qualifying disability-related payment can count towards the eligibility period, provided there is no break – for example, if you spent 3 months on Illness Benefit followed immediately by 9 months on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- Time spent on a recognised training course such as SOLAS/ETB, a VTOS course, Youthreach or in prison may count as part of the qualifying period.
- Since 1 June 2018, people on the JobPath programme and the Tús scheme are eligible for CE.
Schemes that do not count towards the qualifying period for CE
- Generally, time spent on Gateway, Rural Social Scheme, Springboard or getting Back to Education Allowance will not count towards the eligibility period. There are some exceptions to this, which can be found in the Community Employment procedures manual.
- Time spent as a qualified adult dependant on another person’s claim does not count towards CE eligibility.
If you are aged 55 years and over
You must be getting a qualifying social welfare payment for 12 months – as outlined above for people aged between 21 and 55 years.
You can stay on CE for a maximum of 3 consecutive years. It may be possible to re-qualify for CE after a further 12 months on a qualifying payment. See information below for participants aged 62 and over.
If you are aged 62 years and over
Under the Service Support Stream pilot initiative, CE participants aged 62 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 that there are places available.
Other ways to qualify for CE
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 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 DEASP 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, or
- Living on one of the offshore islands and currently getting a CE-qualifying payment for 6 months or more (see list of CE-qualifying payments for people aged between 21 and 55 years below).
Duration of scheme
Since 3 July 2017, 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 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 remain on CE for 3 consecutive years.
Under the Service Support Stream pilot initiative, if you are aged 62 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 pilot scheme and providing that there are places available.
In general, the maximum amount of time you can spend on a CE scheme over your lifetime is 6 years (7 years if you are getting a disability-linked social welfare payment). Time spent on CE before 1 January 2007 will not be counted.
If you started on CE before 3 July 2017, you can stay on the scheme under your existing CE eligibility rules, if this is to your advantage.
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. Your sponsor may agree with DEASP to arrange your work hours differently for example, 39 hours every second week, or 19.5 hours every week, in combinations of full or half days or 2.5 days per week.
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.
You are entitled to a maximum of 56 hours (7 full days) of medically certified sick leave in a 52 week period. The DEASP provides the sponsor with a support grant towards the payment of sick leave. In general, there is no payment for uncertified sick leave. However, in certain cases the DEASP officer may allow, a maximum of 2 uncertified days (8 hours) in any 12 month period. Detailed information on sick leave is available in the Community Employment Procedures Manual.
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. Detailed information is available in the Community Employment Procedures Manual.
Age limit: Funding is not provided for CE participants who have reached the qualifying age for a State pension.
The current qualifying age for all State pensions is 66. An increase to 67 in 2021 and to 68 in 2028 was planned.
However, under the Programme for Government 2020 a Commission for Pensions will be set up to examine sustainability and eligibility issues with State pensions and the Social Insurance Fund. Until the report of this Commission has been completed and the Government has decided on its recommendations, the State pension will remain at 66 and the proposed increase to 67 will be deferred.
Childcare: If you need childcare in order to become a CE participant, you may be eligible for the Community Employment Childcare (CEC) programme, which provides subsidised childcare places for children up to the age of 13. The CEC programme closed to new registrations on 14 February 2020. If you are already registered for CEC, you can choose to stay on the programme until August 2021 or you can register for the National Childcare Scheme (NCS). The NCS is a new Scheme providing financial support to help parents to meet the costs of childcare.
Training and development: 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).
Other payments and CE: If you get a place on a CE scheme and your spouse or partner is claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA), Disability Allowance (DA) or Farm Assist in their own right, they can claim an Increase for a Qualified Adult with their JA, DA or Farm Assist. Your income from the CE scheme (as a single person) is then assessed as insurable employment against their payment.
You will keep your medical card when you are on CE.
You will 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.
Since 25 March 2019 the minimum weekly payment for new participants based on 19.5 hours worked is €225.50.
If the actual social welfare payment (including dependants) you were getting was €203 a week or less, then you will get the minimum CE weekly rate of €225.50 (that is €203 plus €22.50).
If your actual weekly social welfare payment (including dependants) was €203 or more, then you will get the same rate as your social welfare payment plus €22.50.
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 €225.50
In order to avoid any possible overpayments, if there is any change in your circumstances, you should immediately inform your CE supervisor and the local DEASP Community Development Officer responsible for your CE scheme. (Your CE supervisor will give you contact details for the local DEASP Community Development Officer.) There is more information about change of circumstances in section 3.2.6 of the Community Employment Procedures Manual.
Spouses or partners and CE: If you are on a CE scheme and your spouse or partner gets a place on a CE scheme, you will each get a single rate of the CE payment together with half of the Increases for a Qualified Child for any dependent children.
How to apply
To participate in the Community Employment programme, you must register at your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.
There are a limited number of CE places available. Your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office can provide information about CE job opportunities. Job listings are also available online.
Voluntary organisations and public bodies may sponsor CE projects that are for community and public benefit. They should contact their Intreo Centre for more information.
Leaving and re-entry to Community Employment
If you leave a CE scheme, you cannot participate in another CE scheme for 12 months after you leave, and you must be getting a qualifying payment for those 12 months.
If you have the opportunity of full-time work, you can take one period of temporary unpaid leave with your sponsor’s agreement for up to 26 weeks. If the work opportunity continues beyond 26 weeks, you must leave the CE scheme.
Where to apply
Contact your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office for further information about Community Employment.