Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon says the current eligibility rules for a number of rural and social schemes must be re-examined.  His call comes as Fianna Fáil brings forward a new Bill to protect programmes like the Community Employment (CE) Scheme, the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) or the Tús Scheme.

Deputy Scanlon commented, “Last week Fianna Fáil hosted a meeting in Leinster House to hear from community groups concerned about the future of certain rural and social schemes.  Many of these groups are fearful that the government is trying to force people on to its activation programme Jobpath, without giving any thought to the social benefits that schemes like the CE, the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) or Tús provide to communities.

“I know that here in Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon, these schemes provide a huge social dividend, not only for the participants themselves, but also to the communities in which they’re rolled out.

“The Rural Social Scheme is an essential source of income for many small and low income farm families, but the current six year rule is extremely prohibitive, and we would like to see it removed for participants over the age of 55.  Similarly, the Tús scheme is not being fully utilised, and in fact, the government wants to reduce the number of places available from 8,500 to 6,500.  This cannot be allowed to happen.

“Fianna Fáil is bringing forward a Bill to protect these important rural and social schemes by ensuring that people will be allowed to opt out of the Jobpath activation scheme if a place on a Community Employment Scheme, a Tús Scheme or a Rural Social Scheme becomes available.

“These schemes play an important social inclusion role in communities, not only here in the North West, but right across the country.  We want to protect them and ensure that they remain viable into the future”.