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Rural Schemes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 25 November 2021

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Ceisteanna (80)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

80. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if the six-year limit will be removed from the rural social scheme given the disruption to community services by the removal of such participants from rural social schemes and the impact of the policy on the participants themselves, noting the challenges of progressing to further employment or upskilling after the conclusion of participants’ rural social scheme terms; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57966/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) is an income support scheme that provides part-time employment opportunities for farmers and fishermen and women in receipt of specified social welfare payments, and who are underemployed in their primary occupation.

RSS is specifically designed and delivered to certain qualified people of working age whose income falls below certain limits. The valuable work undertaken by participants draws on their existing skills which may be further developed and shared throughout their participation.

During 2017 and 2018 the number of places funded on RSS was increased by 750, bringing the total number of places available to 3,350. A six-year time limit was also introduced for new RSS participants with effect from February 2017. The limit was introduced to ensure that there will be places available for newer cohorts of eligible persons and aligns the RSS with other employment support programmes. This only applies to new entrants to RSS from February 2017.

Prior to the introduction of the six year time limit, a RSS participant could remain on the RSS scheme for a significant part of their working life. This had the effect of limiting turnover of places on RSS and thereby reducing the opportunities for potential new entrants.

The first group of participants that will leave RSS on the basis of the 6-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 continually monitors all of its employment support programmes and intends to complete a review of RSS in 2022.

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

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