Community Employment (CE) scheme
What is the CE scheme?
The Community Employment (CE) programme (more commonly known as the ‘CE Scheme’) is designed to help people who are long-term unemployed (or otherwise disadvantaged) to get back to work by offering part-time and temporary placements in jobs based within local communities.
If you are a participant in the CE scheme, you can take up other part-time work during your placement. After the placement, you are encouraged to look for permanent jobs elsewhere, based on the experience and new skills you have gained while on a Community Employment scheme.
You can find out more about CE and the experience of CE participants in the DSP video on Community Employment.
If you are a CE supervisor or a CE assistant supervisor, you can get a once-off CE Ex-Gratia Payment after you reach retirement age. You can find out more on gov.ie.
The Department of Social Protection (DSP) gives allowances and funding to assist with the Community Employment scheme, for example, your wages, supervisor grants, materials grants and specific skills training grants. Community Employment sponsors are the voluntary organisations or public bodies that manage CE schemes at a local level. Detailed information is available in the Community Employment procedures manual (pdf).
It was announced in Budget 2024 that people on the CE scheme will get an increase of €12 per week from January 2024.
Am I eligible for the CE scheme?
How you qualify for a CE scheme depends on your age and your personal situation.
If you are aged between 21 and 55 years
In general, you must be unemployed.
You must also be getting any combination of the following payments for at least 12 months:
- Jobseeker's Benefit (JB)
- Jobseeker's Allowance (JA)
- Jobseeker's Transitional payment (JST)
- One-Parent Family Payment (OFP)
- Deserted Wife’s Benefit
- Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension
- Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Non-Contributory Pension or
- Farm Assist
Note: If you are aged 21 and over, and are getting JB or JA, you can have worked up to 30 days in the 12 months before starting the CE scheme and still be eligible for the scheme.
Other schemes that count towards the qualifying period
- Time spent on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) can count towards the CE qualifying period. You must establish your entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment before you start on CE.
- If you were getting basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) before getting one of the payments listed above, the time on SWA can also count towards the qualifying period for CE, provided there are no breaks between different payments – for example, if you spent 2 months on SWA followed immediately by 10 months on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- If you were getting Carer's Allowance (CA), the time spent on CA can also count towards the eligibility period, but your caring responsibilities must have ceased and you must currently be getting either JA, JB or OFP.
- Time spent on a CE-qualifying disability-related payment can count towards the eligibility period, provided there is no break – for example, if you spent 3 months on Illness Benefit followed immediately by 9 months on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- Time spent on a recognised training course such as SOLAS/ETB, a VTOS course, Youthreach or in prison may count as part of the qualifying period.
- People on the JobPath programme and the Tús scheme are eligible for CE.
Schemes that do not count towards the qualifying period for CE
- Generally, time spent on Gateway, Rural Social Scheme, Springboard or getting Back to Education Allowance will not count towards the eligibility period. There are some exceptions to this, which can be found in the Community Employment procedures manual (pdf).
- Time spent as a qualified adult dependant on another person’s claim does not count towards CE eligibility.
If you are aged 55 years and over
You must be getting a qualifying social welfare payment for 12 months – as outlined above for people aged between 21 and 55 years.
You can stay on CE for a maximum of 3 consecutive years. It may be possible to re-qualify for CE after a further 12 months on a qualifying payment. See information below for participants aged 60 and over.
If you are aged 60 years and over
CE participants aged 60 years and over who meet the eligibility requirements may stay continuously on CE up to the age at which they qualify for a State pension, providing there are places available.
Other ways to qualify for CE
- Under the “Qualified Adult (QA) on a Community Employment Scheme: Pilot” - if you are a QA on your spouse, partner, civil partner or cohabitant’s Jobseekers Allowance claim and they meet the eligibility for CE, you may be eligible to participate in CE. Please note that this CE eligibility option is open to QAs as part of a pilot scheme since 1 January 2023.
If you do not qualify for CE under the eligibility criteria for your age group above, you may still be eligible for the scheme if you are aged 18 years and over and you are:
- Getting Disability Allowance, Blind Pension or Invalidity Pension, or
- Getting Illness Benefit for at least 6 months, or
- A member of the Traveller or Roma community, unemployed and getting Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance for any length of time or One-Parent Family Payment for at least 1 year, or
- A person with refugee status and getting any DSP payment for any length of time, or
- Referred following an appropriate assessment according to the National Drugs Rehabilitation Framework protocols, an ex-offender who has been referred by the Probation Service or other designated service, or an ex-offender not referred by a designated service who has been getting JA or JB for 12 months, or
- Living on one of the offshore islands and currently getting a CE-qualifying payment for 6 months or more (see list of CE-qualifying payments for people aged between 21 and 55 years below).
How long can I stay on the CE scheme?
If you are aged between 21 and 55 years, your CE placement generally lasts for one year. However, if you are working towards a major education award, your CE placement can be extended by up to 2 years to complete this award. You won’t get an extension beyond 3 years (or 4 years for people on a disability-linked social welfare payment).
If you are aged over 55, you can stay on CE for 3 consecutive years.
If you are aged 60 years and over and meet the CE eligibility requirements, you can stay continuously on CE until you qualify for a State pension, once you meet the terms and conditions of the scheme and providing that there are places available.
In general, the maximum amount of time you can spend on a CE scheme over your lifetime is 6 years (7 years if you are getting a disability-linked social welfare payment). Time spent on CE before 1 January 2014 will not be counted. This ‘baseline year’ of 2014 will be updated annually, so that it stays 7 years behind the current calendar year. For example, in 2023, the baseline year will increase to 2016. This gives CE participants, who remain unemployed, further opportunities to participate on the scheme.
If you started on CE before 3 July 2017, you can stay on the scheme under your existing CE eligibility rules, if this is to your advantage.
Staying on CE until your employer finds a replacement
Even if your CE term has ended, you can stay on the scheme until a replacement CE participant is found. This will reduce the impact of vacancies on the scheme and make sure the community services are maintained.
Working on a CE scheme
You must work for 19.5 hours per week (excluding breaks) for your sponsor to be eligible for a grant towards the cost of wages. Your sponsor may agree with DSP to arrange your work hours differently for example, 39 hours every second week, or 19.5 hours every week, in combinations of full or half days or 2.5 days per week.
You are paid weekly by your sponsor and you have certain statutory employment rights including annual leave, public holidays, maternity leave and a written statement of your terms and conditions of employment. Tax may be deducted from your pay, if applicable, but your CE pay is exempt from the Universal Social Charge.
You are entitled to a maximum of 56 hours (7 full days) of medically certified sick leave in a 52 week period. The DSP provides the sponsor with a support grant towards the payment of sick leave. In general, there is no payment for uncertified sick leave. However, in certain cases the DSP officer may allow, a maximum of 2 uncertified days (8 hours) in any 12 month period. Detailed information on sick leave is available in the Community Employment Procedures Manual (pdf).
CE participants pay PRSI at Class A8/A9, which counts as a full Class A contribution. If your CE payment is less than €352 a week, you do not pay any employee contribution. If your CE payment is over €352 a week, you pay an employee PRSI contribution. Detailed information is available in the Community Employment Procedures Manual (pdf).
Funding is not provided for CE participants who have reached the qualifying age for a State pension.
The current qualifying age for all State pensions is 66. An increase to 67 in 2021 and to 68 in 2028 was planned. In Budget 2021, it was announced that the qualifying age for a State pension will continue to be 66.
However, under the Programme for Government 2020 a Commission for Pensions will be set up to examine sustainability and eligibility issues with State pensions and the Social Insurance Fund.
If you need childcare
If you need childcare in order to become a CE participant, you can apply for the National Childcare Scheme (NCS).
Training and development
You will get training as part of your CE scheme to help improve your ability to get a job when the scheme is over. Everyone on a CE scheme must have an individual learning plan where training is identified. You must be allowed to join in any approved training that has been identified on your individual learner plan.
There are a range of recognised QQI Awards and qualifications available to CE participants. If you are between 21 and 55 you must be working towards a QQI Award on the NFQ Framework of Qualifications or an industry equivalent, to be eligible for up to an additional 2 years on CE (maximum total of 3 consecutive years). If you are 55 or over you should be given access to training and development, and supported with any issues you have accessing employment (you can stay on CE for 3 consecutive years).
Getting other payments and CE
If you get a place on a CE scheme and your spouse or partner is claiming Disability Allowance (DA) or Farm Assist in their own right, they can claim an Increase for a Qualified Adult with their DA or Farm Assist. Your income from the CE scheme (as a single person) is then assessed as insurable employment against their payment.
Extra benefits of the CE scheme
You will keep your medical card when you are on CE.
You will keep your entitlement to the extra benefits you were getting immediately before going onto CE, provided you continue to satisfy the conditions for these benefits.
Since January 2023 the minimum weekly payment for new participants based on 19.5 hours worked is €247.50.
If the actual social welfare payment (including dependants) you were getting was €220 a week or less, then you will get the minimum CE weekly rate of €247.50 (that is €220 plus €27.50).
If your actual weekly social welfare payment (including dependants) was €220 or more, then you will get the same rate as your social welfare payment plus €27.50.
If you have any additional income
If you have any additional income, for example, from part-time work, it will not affect your CE payment. However, the rules on change of circumstances that apply to your original social welfare payment also apply to your CE payment. For example, if your qualified adult gets a job, their income will be assessed as means and your CE payment may be reduced. However, your CE payment cannot be reduced below the current minimum rate of €247.50
In order to avoid any possible overpayments, if there is any change in your circumstances, you should immediately inform your CE supervisor and the local DSP Community Development Officer responsible for your CE scheme. (Your CE supervisor will give you contact details for the local DSP Community Development Officer.) There is more information about change of circumstances in section 3.2.6 of the Community Employment Procedures Manual (pdf).
If your spouses or partner also gets a place on the CE scheme
If you are on a CE scheme and your spouse or partner gets a place on a CE scheme, you will each get a single rate of the CE payment together with half of the Increases for a Qualified Child for any dependent children.
How to apply for the CE scheme
To participate in the Community Employment scheme, you must register at your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.
There are a limited number of CE places available. Your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office can provide information about CE job opportunities. Job listings are also available online.
Voluntary organisations and public bodies may sponsor CE projects that are for community and public benefit. They should contact their Intreo Centre for more information.
Leaving and re-entry to Community Employment
If you leave a CE scheme, you cannot participate in another CE scheme for 12 months after you leave, and you must be getting a qualifying payment for those 12 months.
If you have the opportunity of full-time work, you can take one period of temporary unpaid leave with your sponsor’s agreement for up to 26 weeks. If the work opportunity continues beyond 26 weeks, you must leave the CE scheme.
Contact your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office for further information about Community Employment.