Changes to Farm Assist Scheme won't be implemented until March
Key changes to the Farm Assist Scheme were announced by the Minister for Public Expenditure Pascal Donohoe in Budget 2017.
The Farm Assist Scheme provides support for farmers on low incomes and recipients retain the advantages of the jobseeker’s allowance scheme such as the retention of secondary benefits and access to activation programmes.
The 2016 Revised Estimates for the Department of Social Protection provide for expenditure of €85m on the Farm Assist Scheme. However, farmers in receipt of the Scheme won't see the benefit of new measures until March 2017.
Budget 2017 introduces new measures in relation to the assessment of means for farm assist. These include that farm income will now be assessed at 70pc, down from 100pc, with an additional annual means disregard of €254 for each of the first two children and €381 for the third and subsequent children.
According to the Minister responsible for the Farm Assist Scheme, Leo Varadkar, all existing farm assist recipients currently assessed with means will have their payments adjusted so that the new measures contained in Budget 2017 will come into effect from the March 8 implementation date with relevant payments changing on March 15. (Farm Assist is paid weekly in arrears).
It is estimated that the measure will cost €8.5m in 2017.
Minister Varadkar also said this week that Farm Assist recipients will also benefit from the following measures announced in Budget 2017; the €5 per week increase in the weekly rates of payment; the 85pc Christmas Bonus; and Farm Assist recipients are eligible to avail of the 500 additional places on the Rural Social Scheme.