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Councillor Pat Hayes: "As it stands, someone only gets €22.50 extra per week on top of their social welfare payment. With the cost of getting to work nowadays, that just isn’t sustainable for a lots of people." Photograph by John Kelly

Lack of job scheme applicants leaves community groups ‘in crisis’

Ennis College Further Education

A CRISIS in staffing has hit voluntary and community organisations across Clare and beyond, as interest in labour market activation schemes continues to drop. 

Despite some reforms to initiatives like TÚS, the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) and Community Employment (CE) earlier this year, Councillor Pat Hayes said participant numbers are falling. This has left some parts of the county without the resources needed to support community activity. 

Councillor Hayes, who is himself a supervisor of RSS and TÚS schemes, has highlighted the issue a number of times over the last year and said a crisis point has now been reached. 

“These schemes are vital for schools, playgrounds, graveyards, you name it,” he said.

“Every sector of the community is supported in some way by workers who take part in schemes. These workers are a lifeline. The fact is now that, with the cost of living, and transport in particular, there are lot of people who aren’t interested because it wouldn’t pay them to go on a scheme.

“As it stands, someone only gets €22.50 extra per week on top of their social welfare payment. With the cost of getting to work nowadays, that just isn’t sustainable for a lots of people.”

“A lot of communities are now struggling because they have no workers and a lot of them are now in a crisis. I know of one fairly large community in the county who don’t currently have any scheme worker at all.

“Community volunteers can only do so much themselves and it’s harder to get people to give their time. Scheme workers are essential. A lot of community organisations are looking now and they just can’t get workers.”

The Caher native said that while there are huge benefits for those who take part in schemes, participants need to be financially rewarded.

“A minimum of €50 extra per week is now needed to incentivise people and to cover their costs,” he said. “There are major benefits of getting involved and it’s good for people, but they have to have their costs covered properly.

“There has to be  re-shaping of the whole system. The rules really need to change. The financial reward for working is just not there and a full review is needed. The Budget needs to address this.

“We have to support people who make the effort to go out and work on these schemes. For RSS and TÚS, it’s attractive to an older age group who would like to give something back to the community. There have been some changes that are welcome, but more is needed.

“Eleven or 12 years ago, when I was Mayor, I said it was the community and voluntary sector that are keeping communities alive. To do that, they need workers who are properly rewarded for the contribution they make.”

In June, Minister Heather Humphreys acknowledged the impact of high employment levels on participant in labour force activation schemes. A number of reforms were introduced but no change was made to payments. in July, workers on a number of schemes, including those working with three rural organisation in Galway, stopped work for 24 hours to highlight pay issues. 

Fiona McGarry
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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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