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Rural Social Scheme

From: Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

What the Rural Social Scheme is

The Rural Social Scheme provides a supplementary income for low-income farmers and fishermen or women who are unable to earn an adequate living.

To qualify for the scheme, you must be getting a social welfare payment. In return, people participating in the scheme provide services that benefit rural communities.

You work 19.5 hours per week. These hours are based on a farmer or fisher-friendly schedule. This ensures that participation on the scheme does not affect your farming or fishing activities.

If you get a place on the scheme, you are offered a contract from your start date up to the following 31 March. You may be considered for a further term following the initial contract, if you continue to meet all the criteria for the scheme.

How to qualify

To participate in the scheme, you must be 25 years or over and getting:

  • Farm Assist

or

If you are actively farming or fishing, you may qualify for the scheme if you are getting one of the following social welfare payments:

  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Jobseeker's Transitional Payment
  • Disability Allowance
  • One-Parent Family Payment
  • Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory) Pension
  • Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-contributory) Pension
  • Increase for a qualified adult under 66 years of age as part of your spouse, cohabitant or civil partner's State Pension (Non-contributory)

You can retain your medical card while you are taking part in the Rural Social Scheme.

Actively farming or fishing criteria

Criteria for a farmer

You must provide proof that you are actively farming. To do this, you must provide a copy of your application for the Basic Payment Scheme for the current year, including a valid herd number. If you are actively farming and have not applied for the Basic Payment Scheme, you should contact your local RSS implementing body for advice.

Criteria for a child or sibling of a farmer

If you are a child or sibling of a herd number owner and you can certify that you are resident and or working on the farm and you are getting one of the qualifying social welfare payments, you may be eligible to participate in the scheme on the basis of your parent’s or sibling’s herd number.

Criteria for a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of a farmer

If you are eligible but do not wish to participate in the scheme, your dependent spouse, civil partner or cohabitant can take the available place.

Alternatively, if your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is getting one of the qualifying social welfare payments and is actively farming, they can use your herd number to qualify for the scheme.

Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant can participate in the scheme, if he or she is under 66 and you are getting a State Pension (Non-contributory) which includes an increase for qualified adult for him or her.

Criteria for a fisherman or woman

To be considered eligible to participate in the scheme, a fisherman or woman must meet one of the following categories:

  • Self-employed fisherman or woman on a fishing boat that has been entered in the Register of Fishing Boats
  • Self-employed fisherman or woman whose boat has been issued with a pot fishing licence
  • Self-employed fisherman or woman who has been issued with a commercial salmon fishing licence from Inland Fisheries Ireland
  • Self-employed fisherman or woman who has been issued with a dredging licence for shellfish from Inland Fisheries Ireland
  • Holders of an aquaculture licence
  • Permit holders for shell fishing issued by a registered cooperative
Criteria for a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of a fisherman or woman

Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant can participate in the scheme, if he or she is under 66 and you are getting a State Pension (Non-Contributory) which includes an increase for qualified adult for him or her.

Rates of payment

The rates of payment for new participants on the scheme depends on your qualifying social welfare payment.

The minimum weekly payment is €225.50.

    Qualifying payment Rate of payment
    Jobseeker's Allowance or Farm Assist Minimum weekly payment of €225.50 plus €22.50 top-up.
    One-Parent Family Payment Minimum weekly payment of €225.50 plus €22.50 top-up.
    Disability Allowance Minimum weekly payment of €225.50 plus €22.50 top-up.
    Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension You continue to receive your pension with a top-up of €22.50.
    Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Non-contributory) Pension You continue to receive your pension with a top-up of €22.50 (The minimum combined payment is €225.50).
    Qualified adult on a State Pension (Non-contributory) Your spouse will continue to receive the increase for a qualified adult. Your rate on the scheme will be the difference between your increase for a qualified adult payment and €225.50.
Social insurance (PRSI) contribution

A Class A social insurance (PRSI) contribution is paid on behalf of all participants in the scheme. You are not liable for the Universal Social Charge (USC) on your payment.

Tax

Your income is liable for tax, although it is likely you will pay little or no tax.

Changes to your circumstances

The rules that apply to your original social welfare payment also apply to your Rural Social Scheme payment. This means that, if your dependant gets a job, their income will be assessed as means and your payment may be reduced.

Your payment cannot be reduced below the minimum rate of €225.50. To avoid any possible overpayments, if there is any change in your circumstances, you should inform your local Rural Social Scheme implementing body.

Apply

As this scheme is administered locally, you should contact your local implementing body for further information or an application form.

You can also read the department's Guide to the Rural Social Scheme.

Operational Guidelines

Operational Guidelines: Rural Social Scheme.