Written Answers. - Farm Retirement Scheme.

Gerry Reynolds

Question:

261 Mr. G. Reynolds asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the reason the farm retirement pension of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim has been reduced. [8267/01]

The person named entered the scheme of early retirement from farming in joint management with her husband. The regulation under which the scheme was introduced requires that the pension payable under the scheme must be reduced by the amount of any national retirement pension, which becomes payable to either the applicant or their spouse-partner in a joint management situation. Participants in the scheme are required to notify my Department immediately such pensions are awarded so as to avoid overpayments.

This person's husband qualified for a national retirement pension from 1 December 2000. My Department had reminded her in September 2000 and December 2000 of her obligation to notify the Department of her husband's entitlement to the national retirement pension. A reply confirming the award of pension and the amount he was being paid was not received from the participant until the middle of January 2001 however, and by that time an overpayment had occurred. In order to comply with its obligations in respect of EU funds, my Department has no option but to recover the resulting overpayment from future payments due to this person. Her early retirement pension, therefore, has had to be reduced by the amount of the national retirement pension and by an additional amount to recover the overpayment. Though the overpayment had occurred over two months, by Department is recovering it over twelve months to minimise the effect on her income.