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

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, in order to allow a new cohort of farmers to join.

However, in recent years, applications from small farmers who don’t have a part-time job have become scarce and the scheme has been undersubscribed.

The six-year rule meant that farmers who wanted to stay on in the scheme couldn’t and there were not enough farmers joining to fill the positions being left vacant.

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.