Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

'Social welfare red tape hitting job take-up in agri sector'

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar Photo: Tony Gavin
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar Photo: Tony Gavin
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

Difficulties accessing social welfare payments are deterring people from taking up seasonal jobs in the farming sector, the ICMSA has said.

Although the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar recently committed to providing almost €83m in expenditure on the Farm Assist Scheme, and additional PRSI benefits to the self employed in Budget 2017, the ICMSA are calling for more "flexible" incentives to be introduced.

At a recent meeting with Minister Varadkar, Pat McCormack ICMSA deputy president, urged the Government to also consider the provision of 'Illness Benefit' for farmers and to amend access to job-seekers allowance in forthcoming budgets.

"Unfortunately, accidents and illness happen on farms like any other business and the PRSI system should be enhanced further to provide protections to farmers and other self employed people where they have an accident or illness of a short-term nature," he said.

The Minister agreed to examine this matter in forthcoming budgets.

Additionally, as concerns increase over 'farmer burnout' due to high workloads, the ICMSA also highlighted barriers in accessing casual labour - particularly during the busy spring period.

"A major contributory factor" to this issue is that individuals in receipt of job-seekers allowance find it difficult to reactivate their social welfare benefit once their seasonal work has concluded.

"Further flexibilities are required that would allow people to work a number of hours each day rather than three fixed days. These would certainly help the situation on farms and would also generate additional employment in rural areas," he said.

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The Farm Assist Scheme helps more than 8,000 farm families across the country and supplements mostly small farms on poor land.

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