Burton defends cuts in employment schemes


THE TROIKA has failed to recognise the “intrinsic social value” of some community employment schemes, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has told the Dáil as she defended cuts in the scheme.

A major condition of continued funding from the EU-IMF is on reforming “activation policies”, but schemes playing an important role in communities include helping the disabled live independently or delivering meals on wheels to older citizens.

Ms Burton said her Department would stop the current practice of giving the same level of training and material grants to all schemes regardless of the length of time participants were on schemes.

She said there were about 2,000 participants on schemes for five years or more. “Their need for training is considerably less than those who are new entrants.”

During a Sinn Féin private member’s debate calling for a reversal of cuts in the schemes, Ms Burton insisted that that “no scheme will be forced to close as a result of the reduction in the materials and training grants during the period of the financial review”.

But Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh who introduced the private member’s motion, claimed the Minister was “reinstating old unemployment traps and she knows it well. She is condemning lone parents and their children to poverty and isolation.” Ms Burton insisted “there are no reductions in places and no reductions in the number of supervisors”. There are 1,143 community employment schemes with about 22,000 participants and 1,300 full-time supervisors earning €58 million in wages.

She pointed to repeated reports critical of some schemes and said “all CE schemes will see a reduction in the level of training and materials grants compared to 2011 but the reduction will vary according to the needs of participants and project circumstances.”

There had always been significant flexibility to vary the amount of the grant paid depending on need and “up to €1,000 may be available to a scheme in respect of the training and materials grant for this year, subject to demonstration of need”.

The budget for the schemes in 2012 is €315 million.

Mr Ó Snodaigh said that a lone parent with three children would have their pay cut from €504.80 to €452.90 for 19.5 hours of work.

Community employment was one of the few activation measures open to lone parents but the associated social welfare cuts “now make it unaffordable and so is closing it off for them”, he said.