Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith says the Social Protection Minister’s decision to place a three year time limit on contracts under the Rural Social Scheme take away the stability that was afforded to low income farmers under the programme.

Deputy Smith says the move is regressive and goes against the premise of the scheme.

“The Rural Social Scheme rolls out important community services while providing additional employment to low income farmers. It has been a huge success since its introduction providing essential community services such as care services; village enhancement; maintenance of community facilities such as football pitches, community halls and green spaces; and the development of walkways.

“This additional income provided financial certainty for low income farmers.  This security has now been effectively removed as a result of the Minister Varadkar’s decision to impose a 3 year time limit on the contracts.  This will have serious repercussions for many farmers across Cavan and Monaghan who depend on these payments to survive.  It will inhibit their ability to develop their farms and borrow money because it limits their long term financial security.

“The means test introduced by former Minister Joan Burton has stifled farm families over the past number of years and I have repeatedly called on Minister Burton and her successor Minister Varadkar to reverse this mean cut.  There are many families who only receive €20 a week for 19 hour a week.  This is extremely unfair and places a huge financial strain on small family farms.

“The RSS is a multi-faceted scheme – not only does it assist low income farmers financially, and deliver essential community services, it provides an important social outlet for farmers who live alone and who may feel lonely or isolated.  Their work within the RSS keeps them in contact with others in their community and ensures that they have a much needed social outlet at a time when mental health issues are a cause of real concern”.