From the beginning of next month, farmers who cannot work due to long-term illness or disability will be able claim the invalidity pension.

Farmers and those who are self-employed – including: small business owners; tradespeople; freelancers; contractors; and professionals – will have access to this resource as the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, extended the invalidity pension to the self-employed for the first time without having to go through a means test.

It is expected that this improvement will cost in the region of €23 million next year. Figures from the Central Statistics Office’s (CSO’s) Quarterly National Household Survey Q2, 2017, showed that there was over 326,000 self-employed people in Ireland.

As a result of this change, people who work for themselves and pay PRSI at Class S will – from December 1 – have the option of applying for the invalidity pension on a similar basis to those who are employees.

The invalidity pension is a weekly payment for people who cannot work because of a long-term illness or disability. The current personal rate of payment is €198.50/week, but increases may be paid also for a dependent adult (means-assessed) and dependent children.

From March of this year, the self-employed have also been afforded access to the Treatment Benefit Scheme – which includes free eye tests, dental examinations and contributions towards the cost of hearing aids.

Additional dental and optical benefits have also been provided since October of this year both the self-employed and employees.

‘Making work pay’

Commenting on the announcement, Minister Doherty said: “These measures are part of the government’s policy of making work pay and encouraging self-employment and entrepreneurship.

“It is a real advance in the level of cover available to the self-employed and it is in line with the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government for an improved PRSI scheme for the self-employed.

This measure will give the self-employed access to the safety-net of state income supports if they have a serious illness or injury that prevents them from working. It is based solely on their PRSI contributions, it is not means assessed and whatever savings or assets they have will not affect their payment.

“Similarly, if their partner is working, that income will not affect the payment of the invalidity pension.

“Furthermore, I have been able to introduce this measure without increasing the rate of PRSI paid by employees, employers and the self-employed. The current Class S rate of PRSI paid by the self-employed pay is 4%.”

It has also been confirmed that the extensions to do the invalidity pension is also open to self-employed who are currently out of work through illness, if they have the relevant PRSI contributions on their social insurance record.