The Rural Social scheme (RSS) provides opportunities for farmers and fishermen who are currently in receipt of specified social welfare payments to work to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. Communities benefit from the skills and talents of local farmers and fishermen and the participants have the opportunity to improve existing skills, or develop new skills, while performing this valuable work in their local communities.
A six-year time limit was introduced for new entrants to the RSS scheme with effect from 1 February 2017. Prior to this an RSS participant could spend their entire working life on the scheme, resulting in a very limited turnover of places and few opportunities for new entrants. The new limit ensures that places become available to provide opportunities for others to take part in the scheme. RSS participants who commenced on the scheme prior to 1st February 2017 will remain on the scheme, as long as they continue to remain eligible.
In recognition of the crucial work undertaken in rural communities under the RSS and as part of my Department's budget package for 2018, the Government approved an additional 250 places on the RSS, increasing the overall number of places available to 3,350. Overall this represents an increase of approx. 30% in the places available on the scheme in the past two years.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.