The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) is a demand-led income support scheme, providing part-time employment opportunities for farmers and fishermen and women who are in receipt of specified social welfare payments, and who are underemployed in their primary occupation. The scheme offers participants the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in their communities.
Following a Government decision, the number of places on RSS was increased by 750 during 2017 and 2018, bringing the total number of places available on the RSS to 3,350.
As at end-October, 2021 there were 363 places still available to new entrants on RSS, indicating that the existing number of approved places for RSS is more than sufficient and exceeds the existing level of demand. There are no plans to increase the number of RSS places available at this time.
The 2017 Government decision also included the introduction of a six-year time limit for new RSS entrants, with effect from 1st February 2017. RSS participants who commenced on the scheme prior to 1st February 2017 can remain on RSS for as long as they continue to remain eligible for a qualifying social welfare payment.
The six-year time limit was introduced to ensure that there continues to be places available to new entrants and aligns RSS with other employment support programmes.
The first group of participants that will leave RSS on the basis of the six-year rule will not arise until February, 2023 and those who leave may continue to be eligible for one of a number of existing employment supports such as Farm Assist, Fish Assist or Jobseekers Assistance, subject to certain qualification criteria.
The Department continues to monitor all of the employment support programmes and intends to undertake a review of RSS in 2022.