Thursday, 18 February 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Rural Social Scheme
198. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans for reviewing the six-year rule on participation on rural social schemes; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this rule is restricting the potential of the rural social scheme programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9089/21]
The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) is an income support initiative which commenced in 2004 to provide part-time employment opportunities for farmers or fisherpersons who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who are underemployed in their primary occupation.
The work undertaken is primarily to support local service provision via community, voluntary and not-for-profit organisations, provided that this does not displace existing service provision or employment. Communities benefit from the skills and talents of local farmers and fisherpersons and the RSS participants have the opportunity to improve and develop new or existing skills, while working in their local communities.
During 2017 and 2018 the number of places funded on RSS was increased by 750, bringing the total number of places provided for up to 3,350. As at end of January 2021, there were 3,110 participants availing of RSS.
In addition to the introduction of additional places, a maximum duration limit of six years on RSS was also introduced new RSS participants who commenced on the scheme from 1st February 2017. The earliest that any RSS participant will be affected by the six year maximum duration limit will be 2023. RSS participants who commenced on the scheme prior to 1st February 2017 will remain on the scheme as long as they continue to satisfy the eligibility conditions of the scheme.
My Department continues to review all aspects of its income and employment support programmes to ensure their most effective delivery and the best outcomes for both participants and communities. I trust that this clarifies the situation.