As background to the controversy in Aughrim where the National Disabled Angling Facility was faced with closure following the withdrawal of CE scheme funds, Stephen asked the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, a number of questions on cuts to the CE schemes, as follows.

To ask the Minister for Social Protection with regard to the cut to the training and materials grant for community employment schemes announced in Budget 2012, if any analysis or study was done prior to Budget 2012 on the impact of these cuts on the viability of CE schemes; what this analysis concluded; and if she was briefed or advised prior to Budget 2012 that these cuts could lead to the closure of the scheme in Aughrim, or of other schemes.  Answered on Tuesday, 24th January, 2012. Ref No: 3541/12

Minister for Social Protection (Joan Burton TD)

Community Employment schemes provide a very important and valued contribution to social employment, training and progression for unemployed people. Furthermore, many Community Employment schemes provide vital community services, not only in Waterford, but right across the country.

There are currently 1,143 CE schemes in operation nationally with 23,300 participants. The overall estimated budget stands at €315,194 million for 2012.

Following on from changes to the materials and training grant for Community Employment schemes announced in Budget 2012, I have directed that an initial review of the financial resources of all schemes will commence in January and shall be completed in March 2012. The outcomes of this review will inform the overall approach to be taken by my Department in implementing these changes.

No Community Employment Scheme will close pending the completion of this review.  Any scheme facing specific immediate difficulties can contact local Department management staff to discuss supports and solutions.

The purpose of this review is to examine the income and funding of sponsoring organisations in terms of their ability to continue deliver the programme.  It is also being carried out in the context that there are community and voluntary sponsoring organisations that receive funding from a multiplicity of state agencies. Alternative sources of support will be examined, particularly with reference to funding from other state agencies to avoid duplication.

The review will also seek to establish if income is generated by scheme activity and the potential for utilisation of these funds to cover project costs.

The Department of Social Protection funds and operates a wide range of initiatives to support the unemployed and other recipients of social welfare. Initial work on a review of certain activation measures, including Community Employment has commenced.  The format of the review has recently been agreed and it will take a number of months to complete.

Community employment participants can continue to avail of education and training programmes that are available to them free of charge from existing State funded providers. This facility will also form part of the arrangements that will be developed as part of the establishment of SOLAS.

In the event that the changes in the training and material grant announced in the Budget creates financial difficulties for schemes that would otherwise be viable, my Department will explore the options in relation continued funding for such schemes.

Following extensive discussions with the Board of National Disabled Angling Facility, a decision has been made by the Board following assurances by Department of Social Protection of funding that they will continue to operate a Community Employment project at Aughrim, pending the conclusion of a National review of Materials/ Training expenditure at the end of March 2012