At the outset, it should be noted that credited contributions do not assist a person in qualifying for a pension, in the way that paid contributions do. They may, however, improve the rate of payment for which a pensioner qualifies.
The farm assist scheme was introduced in 1999 to provide income support for low income farmers. It replaced the former smallholders’ unemployment assistance payment. In line with the then existing arrangements for unemployment assistance (including smallholders) and pre-retirement allowance, the income of farm assist recipients was exempt from class S PRSI for self-employed workers. Recipients of farm assist who had previously paid class S social insurance had the option of paying voluntary contributions to maintain their social insurance record, including their entitlement to State pension contributory, provided they satisfied the qualifying conditions.
PRSI credited contributions (credits) are only awarded to former employees, to cover gaps in social insurance where they are not in a position to pay PRSI such as during periods of unemployment, illness, etc. Self-employed workers, whether farmers or self-employed in other sectors, do not qualify for credits.
While the design of the Total Contributions Approach to determining the rate of contributory pension to be paid for new pensioners from 2020 has not been finalised, it is not expected to include the introduction of a new class of credits for self-employed workers.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.