What is the Volunteer Development Worker Scheme?
The Volunteer Development Worker Scheme has been put in place by the Department of Social Protection to protect the social welfare rights of VDWs. Under the VDW Scheme, an insured person is awarded a PRSI Credit for each week of entitlement. These Credits can help you qualify for certain social welfare benefits and pensions after you return from your assignment.
Am I considered a VDW for the Scheme?
For the purposes of the Scheme, a VDW is someone who is working temporarily outside Ireland; is working in a developing country; whose work has been arranged by or through an NGO in Ireland or another EU member state or directly with the Government of the developing country you are going to; who receives renumeration considered to be “volunteer terms” (contact Comhlámh for more information about this criteria)
What is the background to the VDW Scheme?
An EEC Council recommendation in 1985 required each EEC member state to ensure that volunteers working in a developing country on a temporary basis were not disadvantaged with regard to their social welfare rights.
In Ireland, this gave rise to national legislation to take account of this recommendation and led to the creation of the VDW Scheme.
I have to be working in a developing country – what are they?
In general, a country on the List of Recipients of Official Development Assistance drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development is considered a developing country. The DAC list of ODA recipients used for 2012 and 2013 can be found over here.
Are there any other conditions I have to meet?
Yes. You must be over 16 years of age, and be resident in Ireland immediately prior to starting your assignment.
I have to prepare for my assignment before going overseas – is this period covered under the VDW Scheme?
Yes. The VDW Scheme can cover a preparatory period before your assignment begins. This preparatory period needs to be directly related to your assignment to be eligible.
When I return home, I have to “finish” my assignment by writing a report or otherwise wrapping it up. Is this period covered?
Yes. If you are completing work that is directly related to your assignment, such as producing a report or writing up research upon your return then this period can be covered.
When can I be awarded VDW Credits from?
The award of VDW credits has been in place since 6 April 1983.
I didn’t know about the VDW Scheme before I went overseas, can I apply now?
Yes – it is currently possible to apply for the VDW Scheme retrospectively. However, we recommend that you apply before you go on assignment because processing ‘behind the scenes’ may delay your entitlement to social welfare payments if you wait until you come home.
Does it cost anything to avail of the Scheme?
No! There is no cost to you as the volunteer for availing of the VDW Scheme.
How long can I be awarded VDW Credits for?
VDW Credits can be awarded for a maximum of five years. Different period of work are aggregated in calculating the five years.
What options are open to me if I do not qualify for this scheme or have already been awarded 5 years of VDW Credits?
If you do not qualify for the VDW Scheme, there are two options that may be open to you: being retained on the Irish System under National legislation or paying Voluntary Contributions.
Why do I need to identify myself as an RDW if I make a claim?
Certain qualification conditions are relaxed and benefit years extended for the payment of Unemployment benefit, Disability Benefit, Maternity Benefit, and Treatment Benefit for returning VDWs so it is important to identify yourself as a returned VDW when making a claim to ensure that the relaxed qualification conditions are applied to your claim.
In the booklet, it says I must have paid a minimum of 104 weeks PRSI since starting work to avail of the Scheme. I don’t think I have – does that mean I cannot apply?
No. If you have less than the 104 paid contributions, Comhlámh (on behalf of Irish Aid) will pay Class A Contributions to bring your total up to the required 104.
I’m a member of a religious order – can I apply?
Members of religious orders whose work exclusively involves pastoral duties are not considered VDWs for the purpose of this Scheme.
How do I apply?
Complete Part 1 of the application form and ask your sending agency to complete Part 2. Either your sending agency or yourself as the volunteer should then send your application to Comhlámh.
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that my application form reaches Comhlámh?
The responsibility for ensuring your application form reaches us at Comhlámh rests with you, the volunteer, and not with your sending agency.
Once my sending agency has counter-signed my application and returned it to Comhlámh what happens next?
Once Comhlámh has received your application form, we validate the credentials of your sending agency and verify that you are working overseas on “volunteer terms”. Following this validation, we contact the Special Collection Section of the Department of Social and Family Affairs who notes the period of your assignment.
Why is it important to notify Comhlámh when I return from my assignment?
Because your VDW Credits are not actually awarded until Comhlámh knows that you are home from your assignment. Unless Comhlámh has been notified that you are home, your VDW Credits will not be awarded and your entitlement to Social Welfare payments may be delayed.
What are the contact details of the Special Collection Section, Department of Social and Family Affairs?
Their address is Special Collection Section, Department of Social Protection, Social Welfare Services Office, Cork Road, Waterford. Telephone: 051 356 011.
I still have some questions – who can I ask?