Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has secured a commitment from the Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar, to raise the issue of attempted changes to the rights of Community Employment (CE) scheme workers.

Fitzmaurice raised growing concerns over attempts to change the current scenario where CE workers who joined the scheme prior to the 3rd of July in 2017 could serve six years consecutively, once they were 55 years of age or older on entering the scheme.

The Independent TD expressed concerns that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection were now trying to treat these workers as if they were part of the new regime where they would have to take a 12-month break after three years before reapplying for an additional three years.

However, he outlined that there is a ‘Saver Clause’ in the CE Procedure Manual which clearly outlines that people who were participants of the scheme prior to the 3rd of July 2017 and who were aged 55 or older at that time would could serve their six years consecutively – if they so wished.

The Roscommon-Galway TD noted that CE workers and the schemes they are involved in “play a key role in combating social and rural isolation”.

He warned that: “The Department, by not accepting its own rules, was leaving itself open to legal challenges.”

Fitzmaurice also told the Tanaiste to “talk to the minister in charge {Heather Humphreys} and instruct the department to follow its own guidelines”.

The Tanaiste agreed that “if a Department writes down guidelines, it should follow them”.

Varadkar also echoed the views of Deputy Fitzmaurice on the role of CE schemes in building communities noting that it engaged in critical and valuable work in areas such as sports clubs, community centers and other vital social services.

The Tanaiste, who is a former Social Protection Minister, committed to refer the issue to the current minister responsible for the department in question, Heather Humphreys.

Commenting on the concerns of CE workers, Fitzmaurice warned: “A Community Employment contract of employment is of the same value and carries the same rights as any other contract of employment.

“It cannot be altered willy-nilly by faceless bureaucrats. The current state of affairs is especially unfortunate given the key role CE schemes play in improving the lives of people and communities.”

Concluding, he added: “I shall be marking the Minister and the Tanaiste very closely on this issue, as it cuts to the heart of quality of life in rural Ireland.”

For further information contact Michael Fitzmaurice at 086-1914565 

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