Apologies have been received from Deputy Flanagan. I ask witnesses and members to please turn off their mobile phones. Before we commence, I remind members participating remotely that they must do so from within the precincts of Leinster House. This meeting has been convened to discuss the State-funded programmes Tús and the rural social scheme, RSS, which are both administered by the Department of Social Protection in conjunction with the Department of Rural and Community Development, under the leadership of the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. I thank members of the joint committee for raising these important State schemes as a priority in our work programme, particularly Deputy Kerrane. I thank her for assisting the committee secretariat in organising today's meeting.
Tús is a community work placement programme providing short-term working opportunities for unemployed people. The rural social scheme is aimed at low-income farmers and fishermen and fisherwomen, especially in rural Ireland. The benefits of both schemes for participants include stable income, better mental health and well-being, and the promotion of safer working practices, while also providing multiple benefits in their local communities by supporting voluntary, sporting and community organisations to improve amenities and deliver vital local services. It should be noted that approximately 30% of Tús participants go on to full-time employment, with a further 30% progressing to further training or education schemes. The remaining 40% would benefit from the opportunity of an additional year on the Tús scheme to become job ready.
The rural social scheme, as I said, is aimed at low-income farmers and fishermen and fisherwomen. The scheme was launched by our colleague, member of this committee and then Minister, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, in May 2004. The objective of the scheme is to provide supplementary income to low-income farmers and fishermen who would be unable to make an adequate living otherwise. Not only does it provide a stable income, but, as I said, it has a big impact in terms of promoting better mental health and well-being. A key element of this particular scheme is that it is self referring. Thereby participants can have an active interest in developing and improving their local community.
The secretariat requested a detailed briefing note on both schemes from the Department for members, which has not been received. I have asked the clerk to write to the Department to express our disappointment, because this is unsatisfactory. The joint committee’s policy adviser has prepared an alternative and useful briefing document, which has been circulated. I thank Ms Haley O'Shea for her work.
As we continue in this regard, I very much welcome to our meeting from Tús, Ms Ellen Brennan and Mr. Martin Corcoran, co-ordinator and supervisor, respectively, of the Mayo north east LEADER programme. From SIPTU, I welcome Mr. Adrian Kane, division organiser of the public administration and community division; Mr. Clem Shevlin, industrial organiser; and Mr. Peter Glynn, sector organiser. From Galway Rural Development, I welcome Ms Liz Macdonald, joint chair of the RSS national committee and RSS supervisor; Mr. Sean Larkin, joint chair of the RSS national committee and RSS supervisor; and Mr. Sean Broderick, RSS and Tús co-ordinator. I welcome all of our witnesses.
In terms of privilege, witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or any other way to make him, her or it identifiable or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if witnesses’ statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative they comply with this direction.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I call Mr. Adrian Kane of SIPTU to make his opening statement.