The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) celebrated its 16th birthday yesterday 7th March 2021. The RSS has been such a success in delivering community support within our area over these years. The RSS is an employment scheme that supports the farming and fishing families of Donegal.
International Women’s Day plays an important role in the lives of women globally and women play an important role within the RSS. To highlight the wonderful and essential work of the RSS female participants we would like to introduce you to Martina Brogan who would like to share her story with you.
“I had been in private employment before starting on any community schemes at all. But the employment was very unstable with long unsocial hours but nevertheless, it was still a job. I never liked “not working “. I was always a worker and earned my own income.
Unfortunately, the employment came to an end due to the nature of the work and I found myself on the steps of the dreaded local social welfare office. That was a bleak day. I was always a busy person and I liked working and I liked earning my own money. This social welfare payment did not suit me or sit well with me. I had some land and 20 head of sheep and 10 head of cattle livestock but not enough to make a decent living out of though. The interview with social welfare was a challenge and something I do not remember fondly at all.
Then I heard about the schemes…. First Tús and then the Rural Social Scheme. Both were delivered by Donegal Local Development (DLDC) and both suited me. The local social welfare office sent my details to DLDC and after a telephone conversation, a few forms and an interview with Kathleen Anne Doherty, Tús Supervisor, I was on the Tús scheme. I was offered a choice of two posts….. helping out in the kitchen of the local St. Vincent’s de Paul or working as an environmental operative in the great outdoors. I grabbed at the opportunity of working in the great outdoors. It was also Kathleen Anne who informed me about the Rural Social Scheme as I had told her about my farming background. It was Kathleen Anne who introduced me to Angela Wren, RSS Supervisor.
The change over from Tús to RSS was facilitated by both Angela and Kathleen Anne. I had to show evidence of my eligibility to join the RSS which was my herd number and my Basic Payment Application and they did the rest. I had to be on a mean tested welfare payment as well but that fell into place as soon as my 12 months was finished on the Tús.
I thoroughly enjoy working on the RSS. It gives me the opportunity to do what I love most which is working in an outdoor setting. The sense of pride that I get when I walk through my own town and see the results of my work. There is always something to do. Regardless of the season and the end product is always there to be seen by all.
A clean and tidy town, bursting with colour from the flowers planted, grass mown and tidy during the spring and summer months. And in the Autumn and Winter months’ work slows down a pace but repairs to containers, spring planting, litter control and Christmas decorations keeps us all busy.
When I started working with as an environmental operative I was the only woman in the team. My male counterparts made me feel so welcome and so comfortable into this new role. They ensured that I was not left on my own or left out of the “circle”. They made sure that I was included in everything and everything included me.
The RSS also gave me new confidence and opportunities that I did not know I could reach. I am proud to say that I have got funding through the local social welfare office and successfully obtained my CSCS 360 excavator Card – my digger ticket. That was something I wanted for myself.
The RSS working hours are 19.5 hours a week. These hours fit every well into my daily farming routine. I can feed the animals before going to work and be close at hand should anything go wrong at home. The possibility of changing my work days is an added bonus as herd tests and other necessary farming situations can be worked into my work schedule. All I need to do is make a telephone call to Angela.
The RSS provides training as well. I am also kept informed information that plays a key role in my life.
The choices that the RSS has given me as made me realise just how much I can achieve in the future. I get a payslip so that means I am financially independent again. This regular weekly income provides so much security. I also have paid time off work for annual leave, bank holidays and if necessary sick leave. I am also contributing towards my social welfare entitlements, in particular my state pension.
I have a routine of farming, RSS and home life. I have a good balance there. I can plan my time ahead. I know when to book time off work when the farm is busy and I also have the comfort of knowing that I can swap my hours around should an emergency arise.
I started on the RSS in August 2020. I was fortunate enough to start between lockdowns. I am aware that going forward the future is most uncertain but I am comfortable knowing that I will be able to continue on with my life whilst keeping my RSS work going. The flowers that we planted last year and the new ones that we will plant this year will bloom and the pandemic will end”.