The removal of the six-year time limit for farmers on the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) was announced on Wednesday 29 June, among a number of other changes to both the Community Employment (CE) and Tús.

The six-year rule became a condition in the low-income farmer support scheme in 2017 to allow more farmers join when the scheme became oversubscribed. It meant that farmers had to leave the scheme once their six-year term was over to allow a new cohort of farmers to join. However, in recent years, small farmers who don't have a part-time job on the side have become scarce and the scheme actually became undersubscribed. The six-year rule meant that farmers who wanted to stay on the scheme couldn't and there wasn't enough farmers joining to fill the positions being lost.

The Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, who secured Cabinet approval for the removal of the six-year time limit said: "These schemes support a range of vital local services in areas such as childcare, meals on wheels, the maintenance and upkeep of local amenities and other vital work in our communities.

She added that while the eligibility criteria for these schemes will be extended, additional flexibility to local supervisors when it comes to recruitment and retention will also be provided.

Tús and CE

The eligibility for Tús has been extended to persons in receipt of Disability Payments and new flexibility has been provided to allow CE schemes to directly recruit eligible candidates to fill 30% of places.

Intreo, the Public Employment Service in Ireland is to significantly increase the number of referrals to CE with schemes required to offer places to at least 60% of candidates referred has also been approved.

Intreo is responsible for managing a range of resources around employment and income support and is a service provided by the Department of Social Protection.

Minister Humphreys said: "I’m from a rural community myself and I have always been a passionate believer in the benefits of programmes like CE, Tús and RSS both for participants and for communities."

Ex-gratia payment

She also said that the application process for the ex-gratia payment for CE supervisors and assistant supervisors is now open.

Minister for State, Joe O’Brien added: "The changes announced today will support schemes by strengthening the recruitment process, allow schemes retain more participants beyond their standard contract time limits, as well as removing the six-year time limit for the final group of RSS participants to whom it still applied."