Slow pace of hir­ing in ru­ral so­cial scheme slammed

Irish Independent - Farming - - FINANCE FARMING -

EURO­PEAN farm­ers are more up­beat about their cur­rent and fu­ture eco­nomic prospects, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by EU farm­ing fed­er­a­tion Copa Co­geca.

The twice-yearly sur­vey of more than 8,000 farm­ers in 10 EU coun­tries (not in­clud­ing Ire­land) turned pos­i­tive in the first quar­ter of this year, af­ter tum­bling to his­toric lows in 2016.

The sur­vey points to rel­a­tively sta­ble food prices since the sec­ond half of 2016, “mod­est growth” in milk pro­duc­tion, along with “sus­tained” de­mand, and buoy­ant meat (ex­cept pig meat) ex­ports.

How­ever, it said ex­treme weather could hit food prices dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son, with ce­real prices al­ready down as a re­sult of heat­waves across much of Europe in 2017. Farm­ing In­de­pen­dent DE­LAYS in fill­ing 500 ad­di­tional places on the Ru­ral So­cial Scheme (RSS) have been slammed by the INHFA.

The ex­tra posts on the scheme were an­nounced last au­tumn in Bud­get 2017. How­ever, the De­part­ment of So­cial Pro­tec­tion ad­mit­ted that just over 100 po­si­tions have been filled in the scheme so far.

The INHFA ex­pressed alarm at the slow pace of re­cruit­ment and the farm body called on the Gov­ern­ment to hon­our their com­mit­ment to de­liver all 500 places on the scheme.

INHFA’s Bren­dan O’Mal­ley said the scheme was es­sen­tial for ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties as it pro­vided em­ploy­ment and a means of en­sur­ing that vi­tal work on many pub­lic and com­mu­nity projects was com­pleted.

The RSS is open to full-time farm­ers and fish­er­men who qual­ify for Farm As­sist, and of­fers part-time em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in com­mu­nity and vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Par­tic­i­pants get a top-up on their usual so­cial wel­fare en­ti­tle­ments and are paid a min­i­mum of €215.50 per week.

Al­though 3,100 places are now avail­able on the scheme, the De­part­ment of So­cial Pro­tec­tion ad­mit­ted that 383 of the 500 ad­di­tional places re­mained to be filled.

A De­part­ment state­ment pointed out that re­cruit­ment for the scheme was the re­spon­si­bil­ity of 35 Local De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­nies, and Údarás na Gaeltachta in the Gaeltacht ar­eas. It said the par­ties in­volved were de­ter­mined that all re­main­ing places would be “rolled out as quickly as pos­si­ble”.

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