Budget changes to Farm Assist save the Government €10m a year

Changes made in the Budgets of 2012 and 2013 to the Farm Assist scheme saw the Government save over €10m per annum.

The farm assist scheme provides support for farmers on low incomes and is similar to jobseeker’s allowance.

The 2015 Revised Estimates for the Department provide for expenditure of almost €89m on the farm assist scheme.

Responding to a parliamentary question this week, the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said changes introduced in Budgets 2012 and 2013 have brought farm assist into closer alignment with the jobseeker’s allowance scheme’s treatment of self-employed persons.

She said farm families with the lowest income were least affected by these changes as the headline rates of farm assist were maintained.

According to the Minister, the changes introduced over these respective Budgets reduced the cost of farm assist by just over €10m per annum.

Means test

The assessment of means for the farm assist scheme is designed to reflect the actual net income from farming, according to the Minister.

She said income and expenditure figures for the preceding year are generally used as an indicator of the expected position in the following year. However, farm assist is a flexible payment.

However, farm assist is a flexible payment, she said.

“Account is taken of any exceptional circumstances so as to ensure that the assessment accurately reflects the current situation. Any farmer experiencing lower levels of income or cash-flow issues can ask their local Intreo office to review the level of means applying to their claim,” he said.

Christmas Bonus

Last year, the Christmas Bonus was re-introduced, payable at 25% of the weekly rate.

This year, Minister Burton said she was in a position to provide a 75% Christmas Bonus payment for all long-term welfare recipients, including recipients of farm assist. All recipients of farm assist with children are benefiting from the increase in child

All recipients of farm assist with children are benefiting from the increase in child benefit rates of €5 per month per child announced in Budget 2015. In addition, farm assist recipients eligible for the fuel allowance will gain from the increase in January of €2.50 per week, from €20 to €22.50 per week over the fuel season.

In addition, farm assist recipients eligible for the fuel allowance will gain from the increase in January of €2.50 per week, from €20 to €22.50 per week over the fuel season.

The Minister said there are no plans to change the current criteria of the farm assist scheme.