Dáil debates

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Farm Assist Scheme

11:10 am

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Currently, PRSI-credited contributions or credits are awarded to former employees only, to cover gaps in social insurance where they are not in a position to pay PRSI contributions, such as during periods of unemployment or illness. Self-employed workers do not qualify for credits as one social insurance payment per annum provides the full 52 contributions for that year.

The farm assist scheme was introduced in 1999 to provide income support for low-income farmers. It replaced the former smallholder's unemployment assistance payment, in line with the then arrangement for unemployment assistance, including the smallholder's unemployment assistance and the pre-retirement allowance. The non-welfare income of farm assist payment recipients was exempt from the payment of class S PRSI for self-employed workers. Recipients of the farm assist payment who had previously paid class S social insurance contributions had the option of making voluntary contributions to maintain their social insurance record, provided they satisfied the qualifying conditions to do so.

Since 1 January 2007, the exemption from class S PRSI has been removed and those self-employed persons receiving jobseeker's allowance or the farm assist payment are subject to class S PRSI as self-employed contributors on their self-employed income, provided their annual income is €5,000 or more. Any self-employed person, including farmers, with an annual income of less than €5,000 can make voluntary contributions to maintain his or her social insurance record for pension purposes, once qualified to do so.

A person aged 66 or over with insufficient PRSI contributions to qualify for a full State contributory pension may claim a State non-contributory pension if he or she has an income need. The maximum weekly personal rate is €237, which is more than 95% of the maximum State contributory pension rate. While it is means-tested, there are very significant disregards to the benefit of claimants and a significant majority of such pensioners are paid at the full rate. I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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