COMMUNITIES across Offaly are being reinvigorated thanks to work carried out by participants on the Rural Social Scheme [RSS].
Administered by a dedicated team at Offaly Local Development Company, the scheme provides a welcome additional stream of income to farmers scattered throughout the county.
“We presently have vacancies and are always looking for potential new participants,” explained John Moran, RSS co-ordinator in Offaly.
The Tubber man is only too aware of the scheme’s benefits to both participants and local communities from his background as a part-time farmer and community activist in his own area.
Two supervisors, Tracy Pigott and George Digan oversee the work of the scheme’s participants on a variety of projects, from graveyard maintenance to village enhancement work, in communities all over Offaly.
Brendan O’Loughlin, CEO of Offaly Local Development Company, said they are appealing to both communities and low-income farmers to avail of the scheme.
He agreed that the scheme should be more attractive to farmers in the wake of the recent beef price crisis and the threat posed by Brexit to dry-stock farmers incomes in particular.
“There is a good spread around Offaly but we would like to see a greater take-up from the south of the county,” explained Mr O’Loughlin when the Tribune met him and the RSS team at OLDC’s headquarters at Millennium House in Tullamore on Thursday last.
Asked to identify areas benefitting from RSS, Mr O’Loughlin listed an impressive roll-call of parishes including Ferbane, Banagher, Tubber, Ballycumber, Rahan, Ballinahown, Doon, Shannonbridge, Cappincur, Edenderry, clonbullogue, Killavilla, Dunkerrin, Durrow, Clara, Moneygall and Coolderry.
“Nearly every village has some involvement and we’re trying to cover all parts of the county,’ he stressed.
GAA and other sports clubs also avail of the scheme, outlined John Moran, citing Durrow, Clara and Ferbane as examples while six participants are based at the Faithful Fields complex outside Kilcormac.
The type of work carried out by RSS participants includes
* maintaining and enhancing walking routes and waymarked ways.
* caretaking work and maintaining sports facilities
* village and countryside enhancement projects
* community care for pre and after school groups
* social care and care of the elderly
* community administration and clerical work
While many people’s view of the scheme is firmly fixed in the countryside, groups in urban areas are also encouraged to avail of its services.
Tullamore and District Chamber of Commerce has benefited from the scheme as has Tullamore Show where participants carry out maintenance work on the large volume of hardware and assets the event has built up over its quarter century history.
Participants on the scheme work 19.5 hours per week and these times are flexible and centred around a “farmer friendly schedule.”
This ensures that participation in the scheme does not affect farming activities, which vary from season to season.
To qualify for RSS, potential participants must be getting a social welfare payment and must own at least one hectare of land and be actively farming.
For more information on the Rural Social Scheme contact John Moran, Millennium House, Main St, Tullamore 057 9352467; email: firstname.lastname@example.org or log onto www.offalyldc.ie