Details of where the 500 extra places on the Rural Social Scheme for farmers and fishermen will be allocated have been announced by the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar.

The increase brings the total number from 2,600 to 3,100. It’s the first increase since 2006 when the numbers increased by 100 from 2,500 to 2,600.

Minister Varadkar said that the Rural Social Scheme provides an opportunity to farmers and fishermen to make off-farm income in areas where there are few opportunities to do so, brings money into rural and coastal communities and gets valuable work done on the ground.

“I am very pleased to be in a position to allocate 500 additional places around the country and if successful, I will seek extra places for 2018.”

This move forms an important part of the Government’s commitment to rural Ireland and ensures that all parts of the country and people from all walks of life benefit from the economic recovery.

“The scheme is popular with participants and in the communities, which benefit from their talents.

“It also gives participants an opportunity to improve their existing skills, or develop new skills, while performing valuable work in their local communities.

“And significantly, it also supports participants to stay involved in farming or fishing in their local area.”

The work carried out under the Scheme helps to support countless sports clubs, community services and rural facilities, according to the Department of Social Protection.

But it’s 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 find it difficult to maintain a decent income.

It also gives them an opportunity to develop new skills. Participants provide 19.5 hours a week on a local rural or community project in a 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 participants work on the following type of projects:

  • Looking after waymarked ways, agreed walks and bog roads;
  • Caretaking at community and sporting facilities;
  • Energy conservation work for the elderly and the less well off;
  • Village and countryside enhancement projects;
  • 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.

The extra places will strengthen the Rural Social Scheme by supporting more farming and fishing families on low incomes.

The Scheme is delivered through 35 Implementing Bodies or Local Development Companies, and Udaras na Gaeltachta.

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

Most participants receive a weekly payment of €188 a week (equal to the maximum personal rate on Farm Assist) (rising to €193 from mid-March), and an additional €22.50 top-up per week under the Rural Social Scheme.

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 Development Company for any further information, or for an application form.

RSS places2

*It should be noted that certain RSS Implementing bodies operate in more than one county e.g Udaras covers six counties and IRD Duhallow operate in counties Cork and Kerry.