Farmers who take part in the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) programme make an "immense contribution" to rural Ireland, Galway Rural Development has said.

The RSS RSS provides supplementary income for farmers in receipt of certain social welfare payments in return for part-time employment in their community.

To take part, farmers must be part of an active farming or fishing family and be in receipt of a means-tested payment, such as jobseeker’s allowance or farm assist.

In return, those participating on the programme are employed for 19.5 hours per week providing services that benefit their own local communities.

Variety of placements

The RSS has a variety of placements, from administration, heritage and social care roles, to tidy towns, sports’ pitches, community centres and more.

Galway Rural Development is among the largest RSS programme operators in the country, with a quota of 220 farmers or their family members acting as participants.

Last year, it led a national campaign to seek to widen eligibility on both the RSS and the Tús Scheme, so that participants continue to be available to the community groups.

During the month of December, the Galway Rural Development team of RSS supervisors attended all eight marts across east Galway to provide information to farmers about the contribution the scheme makes to rural Galway.

Senior manager of RSS-Tús Seán Broderick said: “Where there are shortages of participants, rural charities and community groups struggle.

"The different employment programmes need to be better appreciated by this Government for being a vital contributor to rural life and its communities - and ones with the potential to contribute to the Government’s own rural policies.”