Rural Social Scheme participants may qualify for Farm Assist Payments
Farm Assist is a means-tested payment for low-income farmers. There is a similar social welfare payment for fishermen and women called Fish Assist. Fish Assist is not a separate scheme, it comes under Jobseeker’s Allowance.
To qualify for Farm Assist, you must:
- be a farmer in the State
- aged between 18 and 66
- satisfy a means test
You are considered a farmer if you are farming land that you own or lease, for the purpose of husbandry (taking produce from the land).
The means test takes into account most forms of income, assessed in different ways and disregarding various amounts. If you are receiving payments like the Rural Environment Protection Scheme, property payments, or employment payments, different rules apply.
Farm income and other income from self-employment
Farm income and income from off-farm self-employment is assessed at 70% (previously 100%). There are disregards of €254 for each of the first two children, and €381 for any children after that.
These are applied first and 70% of the balance is assessed.
Farming income is assessed as gross income that you, your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant may be expected to receive minus any expenses. Income over the past 12 months will be used to assess your likely future earnings. As farmers may have significant variations in income from year to year, there will be some leeway in this prediction.
A social welfare inspector will meet with you. They will ask to see proof of income and expenses. This could include accounts prepared for tax purposes, creamery returns, sale of produce, and so on. Costs such as rents, depreciation, labour and necessities like feed or fertiliser will be taken into account.
Any income from self-employment, either your own or your partners, will also be assessed.
The various incomes will be added together, and the expenses will then be subtracted. You are entitled to receive a copy of this farm income calculation. You may be liable to pay Class S contributions on your income from self-employment.
Income from farm schemes and direct payments
Under the Direct Payment system, a farmer’s payment can be a combination of payments under 4 separate schemes:
- the Basic Payment Scheme
- the Greening Payment
- the Young Farmer’s Scheme
- Aid for Protein Crops
Payments under the Direct Payment Scheme do not have disregards. However, specified disregards apply to all income received under the following schemes:
- the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme
- the Agri-Environmental Options Scheme
- the Special Area of Conservation
- the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme
The first €5,000 per year of payments is disregarded. 50% of the balance is also disregarded. Expenses incurred in complying with the conditions of the above schemes are deducted. The balance is assessed as means.
Income from leasing of land
If you have leased all of your land, you are not eligible for Farm Assist.
However, if you have only leased part of your land, you are still eligible for Farm Assist.
Your income from a job is assessed. Your assessable weekly earnings are usually assessed from the 13 weeks before you claim.
They are your gross earning less:
- Pension Levy
- Union dues
€20 per day (up to a maximum of €60) is deducted from your assessable weekly earnings. 60% of the balance is then assessed as weekly means. Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant’s employment income is assessed in the same way.
Any income from an occupational pension is assessed in full. If you have seasonal work, you are assessed on your earnings only during the period you are actually working.
People who were getting Farm Assist before 26 September 2007 and who were still in payment on 26 September 2007 may be assessed differently.
A new statutory rental disregard of up to €269.23 per week (€14,000 per year) has been introduced and applies from the 12 July 2022, in respect of rental income from renting out a room(s) in your home to someone who is not an employee or an immediate family member. See Means Assessment Operational Guidelines for more details.
Capital income includes property, savings and investments. Any property you own but are not personally using, investments or any other form of capital, will be assessed. You may or may not be getting an income from the property or investment.
The value of capital is assessed as follows:
- disregard the first €20,000
- €20,000 to €30,000 is assessed at €1 for every €1,000
- the next €10,000 is assessed at €2 per €1,000
- anything more than €40,000 is assessed at €4 per €1,000
The assessment only applies to units of €1,000. Capital income should be rounded down to the nearest €1,000.
For example, if you have €38,400 in the bank:
- €20,000 will be disregarded
- €10,000 will be assessed at €1 per €1,000 (€10)
- the remaining €8,000 is assessed at €2 per €1,000, (€16)
Your income from €38,400 capital is €26 per week.
If you don’t use your farm and have no income from it, it is still considered capital, and its value will be assessed.
Your home will not be taken into account unless you get an income from it.
Your income from all these different sources will be added together to get your total weekly means.
Once this has been calculated, you will be paid the difference between your weekly means and the weekly Farm Assist payment you would be eligible for without means.
|Weekly rates from 3 January 2022
|Maximum weekly rate
|Qualified Child (under 12)
|€42.00 (full rate), €21.00 (half rate)
|Qualified Child (12 and over)
|€50.00 (full rate), €25.00 (half rate)
A full-rate increase is usually payable for each child dependant.
If you are claiming for a qualified adult but you are not being paid for them because they are on a social welfare payment of their own, you will only get a half-rate increase for each child dependant.
You can appeal a decision if you disagree with it. You should appeal within 21 days of the decision and you can ask for an oral hearing. An appeals officer will then hear your case.
If new information comes to light or your circumstances change, you can apply for Farm Assist again.
Application Form: Farm Assist (FARM1)
Edition: October 2022
Operational guidelines describe the processes and procedures that staff in the department follow when carrying out their work.