Rural Social Scheme Guidelines

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1.1 Description of scheme
1.2 Information leaflet
1.3 Legislation
1.4 Administration


2.1 Eligibility
2.2 Eligibility and qualifying conditions.
2.3 Spousal swap
2.4 Duration of participation
2.5 Rates of payment
2.6 Arrangements for persons on age-reduced social welfare payments
2.7 PRSI contribution
2.8 Changes in pay resulting from a change in circumstances
2.9 Secondary benefits
2.10 Hours of work
2.11 Overpayments and underpayments
2.12 Part-time work, education and training opportunities


3.1 Eligible Organisations
3.2 Ineligible Organisations


Allocation of Placements to Implementing Bodies
DSP Divisional Contacts
List of project measures


1.1 Description of scheme

The Rural Social Scheme provides income support for underemployed farmers and those engaged in fishing who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments.  Participants are engaged for 19½ hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities.  The scheme currently provides work opportunities for around 3,350 participants and 139 supervisory staff.  The scheme was initiated in 2004 under the aegis of the then Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.  Responsibility for the scheme transferred from The Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs to this Department with effect from 1st September 2010.

1.2 Information leaflet

The Department has not published a separate information leaflet on the scheme.  Information on the scheme can be found on the Department’s website -
1.3 Legislation

RSS is a non-statutory initiative approved by Government.  The functions of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection in respect of employment schemes and related schemes and programmes are set out in Part 3 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2010 (Number 37 of 2010).

1.4 Administration

The scheme is delivered and managed at local level through the network of local development companies (sometimes referred to as Partnership or LEADER companies).  These companies have responsibility for the delivery of the EU co-funded Rural Development Programme and other publicly funded programmes supporting enterprise development and support for persons who are unemployed.  Údarás na Gaeltachta delivers and manages the initiative in Gaeltacht areas.  These companies are collectively known as the Implementing Bodies (IBs). Each IB has been awarded a specific quota of RSS placements at both supervisory and participant level based on the distribution of the numbers in receipt of Farm Assist.  A list of the companies, the level of participants allocated and the areas they cover is included in the Appendix to these Guidelines.

The IBs manage the day-to-day implementation and supervision of the RSS.  They are responsible for advertising and promoting the initiative and identifying and selecting suitable work placements and community groups.  Policy and general operational responsibility rests with the RSS Unit in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection  (contact:   RSS Unit,  Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Shannon Lodge, Carrick on Shannon, Co Leitrim. N41 KD81. Email:



2.1 Eligibility

Participation on the scheme is by way of voluntary self-selection, based on the eligibility conditions set out in section 2.2.

2.2 Eligibility and qualifying conditions

Eligibility is confined to those in receipt of certain qualifying payments and holding a Herd Number from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.  To be eligible to participate an individual must be aged 25 or over, be in receipt of Farm/Fish Assist or one of the qualifying Social Welfare payments and meet the criteria for either a self-employed farmer or a fisherman

Qualifying Social Welfare payments:
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • One-Parent Family Payment
  • Jobseekers Transitional Payment (JST) 
  • Widow(er)s Pension – (Contributory or Non-Contributory) 
  • Disability Allowance 
  • Adult Dependants of Non-Contributory Old Age Pensioners who themselves are under 66. 

From 1st January 2016, the qualifying payment Jobseeker's Benefit (if previously on CE or RSS within the last 12 months) has been removed from the list of RSS qualifying payments. It is open to those on JB to apply for JA or Farm/Fish Assist which are qualifying payments for RSS.

Illness benefit is not a qualifying Social Welfare Payment for the RSS.

Criteria for a Self Employed Farmer

In order to be deemed eligible to participate on the scheme, an individual must provide proof to their IB that they are actively farming, by providing a copy of their application for the EU Basic Farm Payment for the current year, which includes a valid herd number together with a copy of the associated receipt (official proof of postage).

Criteria for a Self Employed Fisherman/woman

Fishermen/women that meet any of the following categories can be considered eligible to participate on the scheme:

  • Self-employed fisherperson on a fishing boat, which has been entered in the Register ofFishing Boats.
  • Self-employed fisherperson whose boat has been issued with a Pot Fishing Licence.  The Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources introduced this for small fishing boats such as currachs who traditionally have fished for Lobsters and were mainly unlicensed.  
  • Self-employed fisherperson who has been issued with a Commercial Eel Fishing License from one of the seven Regional Fisheries Boards. 
  • Self-employed fisherperson who has been issued with a dredging licence for shellfish from one of the seven Regional Fisheries Boards. 
  • Holders of an aquaculture license issued by the Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources. 
  • Permit holders for shell fishing issued by a registered Cooperative. 

2.3 Spousal swap

Spousal swaps are allowed.  If an eligible person does not wish to participate on the RSS, his/her dependent spouse/civil partner/cohabitant can apply in their place. In these instances, the person originally qualified must give up his/her qualifying DEASP payment if his/her spouse/civil partner/cohabitant is accepted on the RSS. Spouse swap is not possible for fisherpersons.

2.3.1 Criteria for a child/sibling of a farmer using Herd Number facility

A child/sibling of a herd number owner and who is deemed to be actively farming and getting one of the qualifying social welfare payments, may be eligible to participate in the RSS on the basis of their parents/siblings herd number. It is not possible for more than one individual to qualify for the RSS using the same Herd Number. This option is not available to a child/sibling of a fisherperson.
2.4 Duration of participation
Participants sign a contract, with the IB annually and must maintain their eligibility in order to continue their placement. Any change in circumstances that impact on continuing eligibility must be notified. A participant must be actively farming/fishing and must retain entitlement to the qualifying social welfare payment and any participants who qualified from Jobseekers Benefit prior to 01/01/2016 must have an entitlement to Jobseekers Allowance or Farm Assist to remain on the Rural Social Scheme. Where it is determined that a participant no longer has an entitlement to Farm Assist,Jobseekers Allowance or the qualifying payment for the scheme, their entitlement to RSS will cease. However, they may continue to participate on the scheme until their current contract expires. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection reserves the right to have the eligibility of a participant re-assessed at any time. From 1/2/17, participation for new entrants will not exceed 6 years. Participants on the Rural Social Scheme must retire at the end of the last working day prior to their 66th birth date.

2.5 Rates of payment

The methodology for determining the rate of payment on the scheme was amended during 2012.  The changes came into effect for any person joining the scheme after the 17th September 2012 and for any participants who have their claim reviewed.  Persons on the scheme prior to this date who have not had a review will continue to be paid in accordance with the arrangement in place prior to the effective date of the changes until a review of entitlement is administered.

Post 17th September 2012:

With effect from 17th September 2012, the method of calculating payments on the scheme was amended to bring them in line with those paid on the Community Employment programme and Tús, the community work placement initiative.  All new participants on the scheme from this date onwards are paid the equivalent of their existing rate of social welfare payment plus a top-up of €22.50, with a minimum payment of €215.50 (€225.50 from March 2019) being awarded for those joining the scheme with an existing social welfare payment rate of €193 (€203 from March 2019) or less per week.  The payment is therefore determined by the amount of the original qualifying social welfare payment, as subject to a minimum payment of €215.50 per week (€225.50 from March 2019). This is regardless of dependants and exclusive of Fuel Allowance.
2.6 Arrangements for persons on age-reduced social welfare payments
Persons aged under 25 years, in receipt of a reduced rate of Jobseeker's Allowance will receive the full rate of €225.50 while participating on the scheme.

2.7 PRSI contribution

Class A PRSI Credit
Class A employee PRSI is calculated at 4% of gross weekly earnings.
For gross earnings between €352.01 and €424 in a week, the 4% PRSI charge is reduced by the PRSI credit.
The amount of the PRSI Credit depends on your gross weekly earnings.
At gross weekly earnings of €352.01, the maximum PRSI Credit of €12.00 per week applies.
For earnings between €352.01 and €424 (sub-classes AX and AL), the maximum weekly PRSI Credit at €12.00, is reduced by one-sixth of earnings in excess of €352.01.
Participants are exempt from paying the Universal Social Charge (USC). RSS is regarded as income for income tax purposes. The IBs will inform the Revenue Commissioners as participants commence on the scheme and Revenue will then allocate the appropriate tax credits and Tax Bands in respect of each individual participant. Participants are paid directly into their bank accounts by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) on a weekly basis.
2.8 Changes in pay resulting from a change in circumstances
Participants are under an obligation to advise their IB and DEASP Local Office of any change in circumstances that may impact on the value of their weekly payment. The rate of payment is calculated by reference to the underlying value of the social welfare payment prior to taking up engagement on the scheme. The level of pay may vary during the participant's period of employment on the scheme if there are changes to:

  • The value of any underlying Social Welfare  payments of which they were in receipt, prior to employment on the scheme having increased or decreased
  • Civil status, as a result of marriage, entry into a civil partnership, divorce or death of a spouse
  • The employment status of spouse/civil partner /cohabitant
  • Spouse/civil partner /cohabitant has applied for or has been awarded a Social Welfare payment in his/her own right. (e.g. Carers Allowance/Benefit, Maternity Benefit/Allowance, Jobseekers Benefit/Allowance, Illness Benefit/Allowance)
  • Spouse/civil partner /cohabitant is no longer in receipt of a Social Welfare payment in his/her own right
  • Birth, adoption or death of a child
  • Child dependant turns 18 years of age and is no longer in full-time education or a child dependant in full-time daytime education turns 22 years of age
  • Where a child between the age of 18 and 22 is attending a course which includes paid work experience for a period in excess of 6 months
  • Where a qualified child is no longer resident in the State, is detained in a reformatory or an industrial school, is imprisoned or no longer lives with the participant
  • A child dependant Increase is not payable in respect of a child in receipt of a Social Welfare payment in their own right.
2.9 Secondary benefits
Participation does not result in loss of secondary benefits such as medical card, fuel allowance, back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance.  Entitlements to secondary benefits are set out under other guidelines and by the Health Services Executive in the case of medical cards.  Participants are advised of their entitlements to secondary benefits during their participation on the scheme and this is reflected in guidance provided for the operation of the scheme.
2.10 Hours of work
Participants are required to work 19½ hours per week. Implementing Bodies are encouraged, where possible, to allow flexibility over when these hours are discharged, in order to facilitate seasonal farm/fishing-related activity. 

2.11 Overpayments and underpayments
It is the responsibility of the IB, in conjunction with information supplied by participants and their supervisors, to ensure Pobal (the payroll provider) is provided with correct payment details.  In cases where underpayments have arisen, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and Pobal will endeavour to correct same in a timely manner. In cases where an overpayment has arisen, the IB will liaise with the payroll provider and the individual concerned, to ensure a realistic repayment plan is established.  The onus is always on the individual concerned to ensure they have provided accurate and up-to-date written information on which to base their rate of payment.  All participants are required to notify the IB in writing of any changes to their personal circumstances which may necessitate a change to their rate of payment.  These changes can include, but are not limited to:
  • Change in status from single to married/cohabiting/in a civil relationship;
  • Change in status from married/cohabiting/in a civil relationship to single;
  • Change in partner/spouse's financial circumstances, such as taking up employment, ceasing employment, increase/decrease in weekly income (whether via paid employment or non-paid income such as pensions, Social Welfare payments, or other sources);
  • A child between the ages of 18 and 22 starting/ceasing full-time education;
  • The birth/death/adoption of a child;
  • The birth/death/divorce/separation of a spouse/partner;
  • Any change in the participant's own financial circumstances;
  • The participant ceases to be actively farming/fishing, or in cases where the participant has qualified for the scheme by virtue of a sibling/parent's herd no., a cessation of active farming by the sibling/parent;
  • The participant's spouse, in cases of spousal transfer, ceases to be qualified for the scheme, either by reaching the age of 66, applying for their own Social Welfare payment, ceasing actively farming or by any other change in circumstances leading to their ineligibility for the scheme.
  • The participant's circumstances change so as to render them ineligible for the underlying Social Welfare payment which originally gained them access to the scheme
2.12 Part-time work, education and training opportunities
Participants may undertake part time work, education or training whilst on the scheme provided it does not interfere either with their farming/fishing or scheme obligations.  The part-time study and any grants/allowances paid on foot of it must be declared in writing to DEASP.



3.1 Eligible Organisations

IBs play the lead-role in identifying organisations to provide placement opportunities. Those organisations eligible to participate must be:


  • Community, voluntary and not-for-profit in nature, including IBs, other than Údarás na Gaeltachta; and
  • Have a recognised informal (parish/community committee, trade, sporting, cultural or other association) or formal/legal structure (a company limited by guarantee, not-for-profit co-operative or friendly society where profits or surpluses are not distributed to members); and
  • Demonstrate a track record of working with or providing services to and within their communities; and
  • Demonstrate a capability of managing a participant in a placement with the supervisory support of the Implementing Body.

Community organisations engaged in the provision of local services with the support of other publicly supported programmes such as the Community Services Programme, Community Employment Programme, Jobs Initiative and/or the Tús Initiative and voluntary organisations funded by the Health Services Executive or by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs are considered eligible insofar as the placements do not displace or substitute employment supported under relevant programmes.  Additionally, Citizen Information Centres and Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) are eligible.
3.2 Ineligible Organisation

Public bodies (local authorities, voluntary education committees, Health Service Executive) or the functions that are the statutory responsibility of these bodies are not eligible for support.  Similarly, individuals, sole traders, corporate or private bodies, commercial entities (for profit bodies or organisations) offering work placements are not considered to be eligible work placement providers for this initiative.  Schools and colleges (private or public even if voluntary in nature) are not eligible for support, however this does not exclude certain limited services being provided where these are considered not to part of educational or supervisory functions of the school.


Allocation of Placements to Implementing Bodies (Revised November 2018)




Ballyhoura Development Limited



Co Sligo Leader Partnership Company



Donegal Local Development Co Ltd



East Cork Area Development



Galway Rural Development Co Ltd



Inishowen Rural Development Ltd



IRD Duhallow Ltd



Longford Community Resources



South Kerry Development Part Ltd



South West Mayo Development Co Ltd



Waterford Leader Partnership Ltd



West Limerick Resources



Westmeath Community Development Ltd



Údarás na Gaeltachta



Avondhu Blackwater Partnership Ltd



Breffni Integrated Ltd



Carlow Co Development Part Ltd



Cill Dara ar Aghaidh Teo



Clare Local Dev Co Ltd



Co Wicklow Community Partnerhip



Comhar na nOileán Teo.



County Kilkenny Leader Partnership



Forum Connemara Ltd



Laois Community & Enterprise Dev Co



Leitrim Integrated Dev Co Ltd



Louth Community Resources



Meath Community Rural & Social Dev



Monaghan Integrated Development Ltd



Nth & East Kerry Leader Part Teo



Mayo Nth East Leader Part Co Teo



North Tipperary Leader Partnership



Offaly Integrated Local Dev Co Ltd



Roscommon Integrated Dev Co Ltd



South Tipperary Development Co



West Cork Development Part Ltd



Wexford Local Development Ltd



Fingal Leader Partnership



DEASP Divisional Contacts

Department’s Divisional Structures from October 2019





Cork City and County

Marie O'Flynn

Mid West

Limerick, Clare, Kerry & North Tipperary

Jim Lynch

South East

Waterford, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny & South Tipperary

Liam Daly


Galway, Mayo & Roscommon

 Regina Higgins


Laois, Offaly, Longford & Westmeath

Veronica O'Brien

North East

Louth, Cavan, Monaghan and Meath

Paul Carroll

Dublin / Mid Leinster

Balbriggan, Swords, Finglas, Coolock, Ballymun, Kilbarrack,  Blanchardstown Parnell/Kings Inn, Bishops Square, Cork St, Ballyfermot,  Navan Road,  Nutgrove, Kildare, Wicklow, Tallaght, Clondalkin, Dun Laoghaire

Noel Hand/Lisa Doyle


North West

Donegal, Sligo & Leitrim

 Mairin Haran

List of project measures

  1. Maintaining & enhancing waymarked ways, agreed walks and bog roads;
  2. Energy conservation work for the elderly and the less well off;
  3. Village & countryside enhancement projects;
  4. Social care & care of the elderly, community care for both pre-school and after-school
  5. Environmental maintenance work – maintenance and caretaking of community and sporting facilities;
  6. Projects relating to not for profit cultural and heritage centres;
  7. Community Administration/Clerical duties;
  8. Any other appropriate community project identified during the course of the Scheme.

Environmental services, to include

  • Energy conservation work in low income homes and community buildings
  • Renovation of community and sporting facilities
  • Development, regeneration and enhancement of community spaces, gardens, parks, leisure areas, including sport grounds and school grounds where services are not otherwise provided
  • Neighbourhood, village and countryside enhancement, including clean-up
  • Recycling and repair of equipment, including furniture, tools, bicycles, and IT items.

Caring services, to include

  • Social care for all persons with such needs
  • Personal aide to any person with particular needs due to ill-health, limited or restricted mobility
  • Services for children in crèches and childcare settings
  • Preparation and delivery of meals for older people or those with limited income
  • Visitation, friendly call and befriending programmes for older people, those with mental health needs and those confined to home

General community services, to include

  • Caretaking, securing, supervising of community buildings and spaces
  • Administration, web design, social media, reception, production of newsletters
  • Community research and evaluation, including genealogy
  • Event management, promotion and administration
  • Retail services in charity or community settings
  • Promotion and support for volunteering.

Heritage and cultural services, to include

  • Promotion of the Irish language and cultural activities
  • Development and maintenance of walking, cycling and leisure trails
  • Administration, marketing and promotion of local heritage sites and events
  • Staffing of cultural, tourism and heritage centres.

Para-educational services, to include

  • Services for children in crèches and childcare settings
  • Early years and after-school supports for children and young people
  • Literacy, numeracy and related supports for adults and children or those with limited command of the English or Irish languages
  • Assistance with recreational opportunities for adults/young people including coaching, training, art/music classes
  • Actions to develop or support the school completion programme and related initiatives.

Any other appropriate community project identified during the course of the Scheme and sanctioned by the Department.

Last modified:21/10/2019