Allocation of 250 new Rural Social Scheme places revealed

The allocation of 250 new Rural Social Scheme (RSS) places has been revealed this morning by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty.

These extra places were announced as part of the most recent budget and they will provide support for an additional 250 low-income farmers and fishermen to carry out valuable community-based work, thereby helping to deliver on a Programme for Government commitment to rural Ireland, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection explained.

Announcing the increase, Minister Doherty said: “At the outset, I would first like to reiterate my support, and that of the Government, for the Rural Social Scheme.

“In recognition of the valuable work undertaken in rural communities under the RSS, I am very pleased to announce that an additional 250 places will be made available under the scheme.

Overall this represents an increase of over 28% in the places available under the RSS in the past two years – from 2,600 to 3,350.

“Since the RSS was launched in 2004, it has delivered a range of positive benefits for both participants and their local communities.

“The RSS has established itself at the centre of rural life in communities throughout the country. Significantly, it also supports participants to remain involved in farming or fishing in their local areas. It shows the Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting and sustaining rural Ireland,” the minister said.

Breakdown of the additional 250 RSS places by county

Benefits of the scheme

According to the department, the work carried out under the scheme helps to support countless sports clubs, community services and rural facilities.

It is also an important source of extra income to farmers and fishermen who may be working in agriculture or fishing on a part-time basis and who have a low income, it added.

The scheme aims to give these people an opportunity to develop new skills. Participants provide 19.5 hours a week on a local rural or community project in return for a top-up on their social welfare payments.

The scheme is especially important in the west, north-west and south of Ireland where there is a higher representation of farm assist recipients, the department explained.

Participants work on the following type of projects:
  • Caretaking at community and sporting facilities;
  • Energy conservation work for the elderly and the less well-off;
  • Village and countryside enhancement projects;
  • Looking after waymarked ways, agreed walks and bog roads across Ireland;
  • Social care and care of the elderly such as meals on wheels;
  • Community care for pre-school and after-school groups;
  • Environmental maintenance work such as Tidy Towns projects;
  • Helping non-profit cultural and heritage centres.

It is hoped that the extra places will strengthen the RSS by supporting more farming and fishing families on low incomes.

Requirements of the scheme

Participants must be actively farming or fishing with an underlying entitlement to a qualifying department payment, such as Farm Assist, in order to be eligible.

An additional €22.50 top-up per week is issued to participants under the RSS.

Participation is voluntary and is dependent on the availability of vacancies in the relevant locality.

As this scheme is administered on a local level by implementing bodies on behalf of the department, a person should – in all instances – contact their local implementing body for any further information, or for an application form, the department explained.