The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association have welcomed recent comments made by Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar in relation to looking at schemes such as the Rural Social Scheme. INHFA Rural Affairs Spokesperson Brendan O’Malley stated that “we have listened with interest to the comments made by the Minister on this and would welcome any dialogue on it”
The scheme which provides an invaluable income support to 2,600 farmers and fishermen has become an important part of Rural Ireland since its introduction in the 2004 budget. Participants on the Scheme work 19.5 hours per week on various public projects such as village enhancement, social care, community administration and so on. To qualify for the Scheme you must be either farming or fishing and getting a social welfare payment or Farm Assist.
Mr O’Malley outlined how the flexible nature of the scheme has suited farmers who can’t take up full-time employment because of their farming enterprise. Added to this stated Mr O’Malley “is the fact that in many parts of Rural Ireland employment opportunities are very limited” So he added “by providing employment through this scheme we can sustain people in farming and also maintain the rural economy”
Mr O’Malley concluded by saying that the Minister should commit to improve the scheme and increase the number of participants on the Rural Social Scheme to 5,000.