Letterkenny Town Councillors have backed a call from Town Mayor Gerry McMonagle urging the Government to reverse the decision to cut the Community Employment Scheme budgets by 66% which it was claimed could have serious implications for the future of the local schemes.
Calling for immediate action, he said the proposed cuts could affect some of the “most vulnerable in society” and would lead to some of the schemes closing.
His proposal that they write to the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, to express opposition to the cuts and asking that none be implemented during the period of the review was amended by cllr. Ciaran Brogan who suggested that instead of a formal letter to which they would receive a standard reply, the Council should draw up a detailed submission outlining the importance of the Community Employment Schemes and forward it to the Minister.
“I honestly believe that the Minister does not see the benefits of it,” he told last Monday’s meeting of the Town authority.
POINTING out that the cuts would have implications not just for the people employed in them but also for the local communities, cllr. McMonagle called on the Government to reverse the 66% cut to the C.E.S. training and materials budget.
The Town Mayor said organisations such as the Tidy Towns and the Letterkenny Community Development projects benefited from the schemes. Seventeen FAS workers were involved in projects ranging from childcare to working with travellers, assisting at the Cheshire Apartments and providing security for elderly people.
Any cutbacks could result in community resource centres closing their doors, cllr. McMonagle warned.
Workers on the schemes were provided with skills and self-esteem while the trainers involved would also be out of work if there were no people to train.
Cllr. Brogan said he could not understand how Community Employment Schemes were being cut at a time when people need to work. There were many people who would be happy to give something back to the community and to be taken off social welfare and put on a scheme.
“Think of what it costs to keep someone on social welfare. You are getting far more value for money putting someone on a Community Employment Scheme,” he said, adding that the benefits of the CES was a “non-brainer” and it was a scheme that should be enhanced.
Cllr. Dessie Larkin suggested that the CES could be used to “take up the slack” and finish off footpaths, roads and treatment plants in unfinished estates which could then be handed over to the council.
Cllr. Tom Crossan, who has overseen such schemes for 22 years, estimated that around 40% - 50% of people went on to get jobs.
But Fine Gael councillor Jimmy Kavanagh noted that none of the Community Employment Schemes had closed yet and said that there was an issue regarding the progression of people on schemes into full-time employment.
Cllr. Victor Fisher said that it was all “cut, cut, cut” while Cllr. Jim Lynch noted that by being on a CES at least you had a reason to get up in the mornings. He pointed out that there were health benefits from working that must also be taken into consideration.