Unfilled vacancies are hurting community groups throughout the county. Photo: Greyson Joralemon

Communities hurt by vacancies

Crucially important community employment positions are falling vacant all over the county despite workers being eager to stay on.

Groups such as Meals on Wheels are now struggling to deliver vital services because workers employed through Community Employment (CE) schemes and the Tús Initiative have reached the end of their contracts.

Many of the subsequent vacancies are not being filled due to a shortage of applicants and now community groups around the county are calling for contracts to be extended in cases where the worker is happy to continue to work with the group.

Speaking at Monday’s full meeting of Cork County Council, Fine Gael Cllr Eileen Lynch said she had been contacted by many groups, particularly those providing elderly care and childcare, asking for contract extensions for workers employed through these schemes.

She said: “There are currently 2,659 open vacancies nationally for Community Employment schemes. The high number of open vacancies is a massive cause for concern due to the good work that is done by participants on these schemes and how it helps our communities.”

Cllr Lynch said she does appreciate that the schemes are very successful in bringing people back into full-time employment but asked that a review of scheme length and qualification be carried out by the Government.

The councillor also commended the Minister for Rural and Community Development and Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys for extending contracts that were set to expire this November, until February 2022.

“Over 13 and a half thousand participants of Community Employment and Tús schemes will benefit from this extension,” she said.

The CE programme is designed to help people between 21 and 55 who are long-term unemployed to get back to work by offering part-time and temporary placements in jobs based within local communities.

Similarly, the Tús initiative is a community work placement scheme providing short-term working opportunities for unemployed people.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Seamus McGrath said that he understands that the schemes are measures for employment activation but said a practical view must be taken where there are experienced participants who have built up relationships within communities and want to stay on in their roles.

“If they are forced off, very often the communities are not able to get people to fill their shoes. The department needs to take a pragmatic view on this,” he said.

Cllr Anthony Barry of Fine Gael added: “There isn't a community across the county that doesn't use these schemes and feel the full benefit of it. This scheme needs to be broadened out. It’s heart breaking to see communities that are doing wonderful work that have gaps in their schemes.”