An independent TD has urged the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, to review the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) and remove the six-year rule as quickly as possible.
Deputy Sean Canney for Galway east recently warned Taoiseach Micheál Martin about the future of the scheme and “devastating” effects on communities if the rule remains in place.
He said the RSS, as it presently exists, risks the loss of 110 participants in Galway east alone as new entrants have to get off the scheme after six years.
The deputy raised concerns that participant numbers will decline rapidly next year across the country where the scheme is in operation. He added:
“The government, the Department of Social Protection and Minister Humphreys must make sure the six-year rule is removed to allow farmers to remain on the scheme until they are 66 years of age.”
The independent TD explained that, due to the rule, many community centres, sports facilities and voluntary organisations would lose participants and regress rapidly.
The RSS provides support for low-income farmers and fishermen who receive specific social-welfare payments. In return, people participating in the scheme provide services that benefit rural communities.
“The extent of the services delivered through the RSS is enormous and it is important to have continuity for all concerned.
“Without this scheme we will end up with a very poor countryside, poor towns and villages. The communities themselves will be completely devastated,” Deputy Canney said.
He added that the Taoiseach recently committed to engage with Minister Humphreys to find a solution to the crisis in the RSS.
In 2017, the Department of Social Protection increased the number of scheme participants, however, capped the number of years people could work in it, the independent TD explained.
“This will leave us with a smaller number of people in communities where the RSS delivers much-needed services that local authorities do not provide,” Deputy Canney said.