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Social Welfare Schemes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 December 2021

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Questions (433)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

433. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the estimated cost to increase the amount of income disregarded in respect of the farm assist scheme from 30% to 45%. [61275/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Farm Assist Scheme is a means tested support for farmers on low incomes who satisfy the scheme’s statutory conditions including a means test. Recipients retain the advantages of Jobseeker's allowance such as the retention of secondary benefits and access to activation programmes. The 2021 Further Revised Estimate provides for expenditure of €61.7 million on the scheme.

The means test is flexible to allow for significant fluctuations from one year to the next. Virtually all income is included in the means test but it is assessed in different ways and certain disregards apply. Payments received under the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS), the Agri-Environmental Options Scheme (AEOS), the National Parks and Wildlife Service Farm Plan Scheme (NPWS) and the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) attract a disregard of €2,540, with 50% of the balance assessed as means.

There are annual disregards for dependent children; €254 for each of the first two children and €381 for the third and other children. Remaining farm income and income from off-farm self-employment is then assessed at 70%. In line with other means tested social welfare schemes, the first €20,000 of capital is not assessed.

On 29th November I announced the publication of the Social Welfare Bill which will enact Budget 2022 measures. Included in this Budget Bill is provision for an extensive expansion to the list of Agri- Environmental schemes which will qualify towards the disregard of €2,540. The measure will support the Government’s climate change agenda and will act as an incentive to farmers to participate in the schemes.

The approximate estimated annual cost of increasing the income disregard from 30% to 45% would be €4.3 million. This estimated cost is for a full year and based on current numbers of farm assist recipients.

As part of Budget 2022 I secured an increase of €5 per week in the personal rate for Farm Assist which will increase to €208 and proportionate increases for adult and child dependents will also apply. These increases will be paid from 3 January 2022.

Any changes to the means test for the Farm Assist scheme would have to be considered in a budgetary context and within the scope of the overall resources available for welfare improvements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

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