Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Ceisteanna (241)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

241. Deputy Matt Carthy 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 40%, 50%, 60% and 70%, respectively. [38453/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

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

To qualify for Farm Assist, a person must be a farmer, be farming land in the State, be aged between 18 and 66 and satisfy a means test.

The assessment of means for the purpose of qualifying for Farm Assist is designed to reflect the actual net income from farming. Income and expenditure figures for the preceding year are generally used as an indicator of the expected position in the following year. However, account is taken of any exceptional circumstances so as to ensure that the assessment accurately reflects the current situation.

In the means test, farm income and any other income from self-employment are assessed at 70%. There are disregards of €254 for each of the first two children and €381 for the third and other children. The disregards for dependent children are applied first and 70% of the balance is assessed.

The approximate estimated annual cost of increasing the income disregard to 40% would be €3 million; to 50% would be €6 million; to 60% would be €9 million; and to 70% would be €12 million. These estimated costs are for a full year and based on current numbers of farm assist recipients.

The Programme for Government provides a commitment to “conduct a review of the means test disregards for Farm Assist, with a view to better rewarding farmers who avail of the Scheme for their enterprise.”.

This review is underway and will consider all aspects of the means test for the farm assist scheme, including disregards.

Any changes to the Farm Assist scheme will 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.