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Social Welfare Benefits

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 25 November 2021

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Ceisteanna (63)

Seán Canney

Ceist:

63. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Social Protection if computer and broadband costs can be properly recognised within the farm assist process (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57015/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Farm Assist Scheme is an important income support for farmers on low incomes, enabling them to continue to farm while also receiving a State income support. This is important not just for the farmers concerned but for the rural communities in which they live and work. Under the scheme farmers can receive the equivalent of a jobseeker payment and also have access to secondary benefits and employment services. The 2021 Further Revised Estimate provides for expenditure of €61.7 million on the scheme. The scheme is currently supporting over 5,000 farmers.

The means test for Farm Assist takes account of all income sources and farm outgoings and is more generous than that under the Jobseeker's Allowance scheme. Income is assessed in different ways and certain disregards apply. At present, a specific disregard applies to payments under a number of agri-environmental schemes. The level of the disregard is €2,540, with 50% of the balance assessed as means. There are also annual disregards for dependent children. Remaining farm income and income from off-farm self-employment is then assessed at 70%.

Deductions in respect of expenses incurred in the running of a farm e.g. farm related motor expenses, electricity and phone expenses, are limited to the proportion of such costs necessarily incurred in the working of the farm, subject to a maximum of 4.5% of gross output.

Budget 2022 introduced a measure to extensively expand the list of agri-environmental schemes that attract a disregard from October 2022. This will support the Government’s climate change agenda and will act as an incentive to farmers to participate in the schemes.

Any further changes to the means test for the Farm Assist scheme would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

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