Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Questions (105)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

105. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection her policy regarding the rural social scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24109/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

As the Deputy is aware, the rural social scheme (RSS) provides income support for low income farmers and those engaged in fishing who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Participants are engaged for 19½ hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. The Department has engaged 35 local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta to deliver the scheme. The scheme currently provides work opportunities for 2,600 participants and 130 supervisory staff. The funds allocated for 2014 amount to €45m. This level of funding will allow the scheme to continue along the same lines in 2014 as in previous years but does not allow for the recruitment above the numbers stated above. As of week ending 6th June, 2,562 participants and 130 supervisors were engaged on the RSS. As with all schemes, the Department is required to ensure that the RSS remains effective, provides value for money and is in line with other Government policies. A Focused Policy Assessment on the Scheme was carried out by the Department of Public Expenditure and the results were published in recent months. The Assessment highlights the difficulty in assessing the impact and benefits from the Scheme and that it is generally out of line with current Government policy, which is focused on having greater targeting of labour market activation and on the integration of income support schemes with activation. The Assessment also concluded that while there are social inclusion aspects to the RSS, these are not clearly defined and an improved activation component would be beneficial.

The Department is examining the conclusions made in the Assessment, together with the recommendations contained in the Review of Employment Support Schemes which was published by the Department in early 2013. This is with a view to determining the measures that need to be implemented to improve the delivery and focus of the RSS, whilst ensuring the continued support for the provision of services across rural areas.

Question No. 106 answered with Question No. 88.