Social Insurance

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This page provides information about the Volunteer Development Worker (VDW) PRSI Scheme which has been put in place by the Department of Social Protection to protect the social welfare rights of VDWs.  For those VDWs that do not qualify for the Scheme, this page also includes information about the Voluntary Contributions Scheme and being retained on the Irish system under National Legislation.  Please contact our Information and Support Services Officer Ruth Powell at if you would like to talk to someone about these options.

Volunteer Development Worker PRSI Scheme

The Department of Social Protection, through the VDW PRSI Scheme seeks to ensure that Volunteers and Development Workers working outside the state on a temporary basis in developing countries should not be disadvantaged in regards to their social welfare rights. Through the scheme, a volunteer/development worker can be awarded VDW credits on their PRSI record, providing greater access for Volunteers and Development Workers to access all forms of social protection on their return and at retirement.

A Volunteer Development Worker is someone who is:

  • Over 16 years of age
  • Working in a developing country
  • Employed under renumeration conditions considered to be ‘volunteer terms’ (contact Comhlámh for further details about this condition)
  • Resident in Ireland immediately prior to taking up their overseas assignment

And whose assignment is arranged:

  • Through a non government agency/charity in the state
  • Through government or non government agency in any EU Member State
  • Directly with the Government of a developing country

Benefits of the Scheme

  • VDW Credits can help you qualify for benefits and pensions
  • Qualification conditions for certain benefits are relaxed for VDWs
  • Unemployment Benefit
  • Disability Benefit
  • Maternity Benefit
  • Treatment Benefit (Optical & Dental)


  • It is very important that you identify yourself to the Department as a returned VDW to ensure special conditions are applied and delays in processing benefit claims are avoided
  • VDW credits cannot be used to satisfy the first condition of qualification required for many benefits i.e. paid contributions e.g. For Unemployment Benefit, 52 contributions since starting work are required – VDW credits do not count

How to apply

  • Download the Vol Dev 1 form and Complete Part 1 PRIOR to departing on your assignment.
  • Forward the form to your sending agency to complete Part 2
  • Your sending agency will then forward your form to Comhlámh

On Returning Home

  • It is vital that either you or your sending agents notify Comhlámh of the date of return
  • Credits will not be awarded without Comhlámh notification


For full details of the scheme click here to download an explanatory booklet or call Janet on 01-4783490 or email for any queries on the scheme.

Salaried Development Workers

A development worker whose earnings are in ecess of those considered to be ‘volunteer terms’ does not qualify for VDW scheme. It is extremely important for such a development worker to continue their social insurance contributions to allow them full entitlement to benefits as provided for in Social Welfare Acts.

There are two options available:
1) Voluntary Contributions scheme
2) National Legislation : Article 98 of Statutory Instrument 312 of 1996

Further information can be received by contacting:
Special Collection Unit
Department of Social & Family Affairs
Cork Road, Waterford
phone: 051 356000

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