SIR – I am calling on the Minister for State at the Department of Social Protection Kevin Humphreys to outline whether the Rural Social Scheme will continue to exist in its current form. Officials from the Department recently indicated that the programme could be amalgamated with the TÚS Scheme, the CE Scheme and the Gateway Scheme.
Following a question from me in the Dáil last month, Minister Humphreys said that, while no plans are in place to amalgamate the Rural Social Scheme with others, he conceded that this could change in line with rationalisation and resource commitments.
Minster Humphreys needs to make it clear that he understands that the Rural Social Scheme is not an ‘activation scheme’. It is a support programme for low-income farmers, who are willing to give a valuable contribution to their communities, in return for a modest payment. Its flexibility is conducive to farm work and has been key to the success of the scheme, providing long-term financial and social stability for recipients.
However, it would appear that the Minister and his Department do not fully understand to workings of the scheme, which they appear to categorise as a training programme for people to get back into full-time employment. Farmers who qualify for the Rural Social Scheme are already employed on their farms and are not seeking another full-time job.
I am urging the Minister to protect this scheme and ensure that it remains as a stand-alone programme, which will continue to operate under the values on which it was founded.
The one good piece of news that came out from the Minister’s statement is that it would appear that it is very unlikely that any change will take place before the next general election. This will provide an opportunity for participants in the scheme to explain to general election candidates the importance of maintaining the integrity of the programme in its current form.
Eamon Ó Cuív, TD,