Welcome changes to Rural Social Scheme, Tús & Community Employment - Claire Kerrane TD
Sinn Féin TD for Roscommon/Galway Claire Kerrane has welcomed the announcement by Government to remove the six-year rule which would have seen up to 1,400 people forced off the Rural Social Scheme next year due to them being six years on the Scheme.
This would have had a devastating impact on community organisations from healthcare, to services for Older People, GAA Clubs, Community Halls, and many others.
Speaking this morning, Teachta Kerrane said:
"I have repeatedly raised the impending crisis coming if the six-year rule went ahead with the Minister responsible, Joe O'Brien.
"Up to now, the response had always been that the six-year rule was needed to ensure new people could get onto the Scheme. Of course, the figures speak for themselves in clearly showing this is not an issue with over 300 vacancies today.
"I recently secured agreement from Members of the cross-party Committee on Social Protection which I sit on and I arranged for representatives from the Rural Social Scheme, Tús and Community Employment to come before our Committee last month. They highlighted the importance of these Schemes for communities but also the need for changes, including the need to abolish the six-year rule. This was followed up with Department officials who addressed our meeting last week.
"At a recent public meeting, Galway Rural Development provided a list of 172 organisations in County Galway alone who either had no support, insufficient support, or were about to lose support, including Ahascragh Parish Hall, several Brothers of Charity, East Galway & Midlands Cancer Support, Mountbellew Agricultural College. I raised this with the Taoiseach in the Dáil just yesterday afternoon.
"Currently, 2,969 places of the 3,350 are filled on the Rural Social Scheme. Minister O'Brien had already confirmed to me that 1,493 of these will not be impacted by the six-year rule leaving almost half of the current participants being forced off the Scheme in 2023.
"It was madness to suggest when existing places cannot even be filled, to create another 1,400 plus vacancies and leave community organisations without vital supports.
"It is also important to acknowledge the importance of these Schemes to participants, for some, it provides them with a purpose they otherwise may not have, it offers them a social outlet and they are an invaluable role in their own community.
"I am glad that common sense has prevailed here and I am glad that this announcement has been made now as time was rolling on and participants and communities needed and deserved clarity.
"The Rural Social Scheme, like Tús and Community Employment are hugely important - they support and are relied on by thousands of organisations in every community in Ireland. We must protect them to sustain them into the future and we must ensure that where changes are needed, they are made.
“The other changes announced today around increased referrals to Community Employment is something we sought in a 2019 Dáil Motion which was passed. I have repeatedly raised the rising number of vacancies in Community Employment and this change, along with allowing direct recruitment to this Scheme is welcome.
“Issues remain around the short length of the Tús Scheme, the fact that a person has to be unemployed for at least one year before they can engage and there are also limitations when it comes to the eligibility for the Rural Social Scheme.
“Today is a positive step in the right direction and I commend Galway Rural Development for taking the stand that they did and really leading from the front on the protection of both Tús & the Rural Social Scheme."