Wednesday, 13 May 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
127. Mr. Byrne asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the severe difficulties likely to be faced by hundreds of mentally handicapped trainees whose training, which is funded by the European Social Fund, will end in June; if he will confirm that it is his intention to change the open employment requirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
206. Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Health if he will outline the steps if any he has taken to ensure that training for mentally handicapped children provided by St. Michael's House, Ballymun, Dublin 11, and currently funded by the European Social Fund, is continued without interruption with alternative financing if ESF funding ceases this year; if he intends to give priority to the allocation of resources for training purposes to St. Michael's House; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I am aware that there are 24 trainees in St. Michael's House who this year will complete the three year Level I training programme which is funded by the European Social Fund. The three year limit on participation at this level is an EC requirement. Generally this limit will only begin to affect trainees in other training centres from 1 January, 1993 onwards. The trainees will be assessed as to whether, following completion of the Level I course, they meet ESF criteria  for admission to Level II training. If they meet these criteria then they will participate in Level II training programme for a further two years. If any of the trainees in St. Michael's House fail to meet the ESF criteria, the question of alternative provision can be considered between St. Michael's House and my Department.
The Regulations governing the European Social Fund provide financial assistance only to vocational training programmes which are aimed at training persons for employment in the open labour market. People with disabilities can only benefit to the extent that they are capable of being trained for open employment. The Fund does not aid sheltered work programmes or the training of people with disabilities for sheltered employment. The current ESF rules remain in force until the end of 1993. My Department will be pressing in the context of the post-1993 situation for a broadening of the scope of eligible activities under the ESF to include training for sheltered or supported employment.
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