Farmers could avail of more benefits in Minister’s new plans for the social welfare system

Plans to overhaul the social welfare system which would allow the self-employed, including farmers, to avail of more benefits has been welcomed by the Irish Creameries and Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA).

The Social Protection Minister, Leo Varadkar, reform plans would see more benefits being made available to people who are self-employed in return for additional PRSI contributions.

The Chairperson of the ICMSA Farm Business Committee, Lorcan McCabe, has welcomed the Minister’s plans, saying that farmers and the self-employed currently pay PRSI at a rate of 4% but receive very limited benefits compared to public sector and private sector employees.

The current payment only entitles farmers to the Contributory State Pension but work-related injuries, long-term illness, dental and a range of other benefits are not available to farmers, according to the ICMSA.

The ICMSA says it is essential such benefits are extended to the self-employed, including farmers, most particularly given the high occupational risk faced by farmers.

Individuals should be given a chance to opt-in or opt-out of the scheme, for people who did not wish to pay additional payments for additional benefits, according to McCabe.

Meanwhile, McCabe called on the Minister to ensure that any additional charges levied on the self-employed, including farmers, for expanded benefits should not be excessive.

The state and private sector employers carry a substantial amount of the cost associated with benefits available to the PAYE sector and farmers would be unable to match such a level of payments, says McCabe.

A survey will be sent out to 20,000 self-employed people to find out what new benefits they would most like to receive and whether or not they would be willing to pay more PRSI in return for access to greater benefits, according to the Department of Social Protection.

Minister Varadkar brought forward the plans to reform the social welfare system in a memo to the Government in July. 

“There is plenty of evidence that self-employed people are not satisfied with the extent of the benefits they receive in return for paying PRSI.

“I want to find out what new benefits they would most like to receive, such as long-term illness, injury, jobseekers and dental treatment benefits or whether they would prefer to maintain the status quo.” Minister Varadkar said.