Department suspends ERS pensions for spouses
Payment of the Early Retirement Scheme (ERS) pension to the spouse, partner or dependents of deceased farmers has been suspended following intervention by the EU Commission.
In a move which could cost some farm families in excess of €100,000, the Department of Agriculture has been forced to stop processing applications for the pension from family members of deceased scheme participants.
The Department confirmed it has suspended processing new applications by relatives of deceased ERS pension recipients after a recent audit of the scheme by the European Court of Auditors.
The Department said that it was seeking to secure the continued payment of existing pensions to relatives of deceased scheme members.
"Since the first scheme of early retirement from farming was introduced in 1994, it has been the Department's practice to pay the pension to dependants of participants who died before the period of their pension had elapsed," a Department statement read.
"However, following recent audits of the scheme by the European Court of Auditors and the European Commission, the commission has informed the Department that this practice is not compatible with the current regulations governing the implementation of the scheme and that it must be discontinued," it added.
"Accordingly, the Department has suspended the processing of new cases, of which there are 21.
"The Department is continuing to pay existing cases and will be engaging in discussion with the European Commission with a view to securing their future position."