Question No: 247 Ref No: 29265-16
To the Minister for Social Protection
To ask the Minister for Social Protection the steps he has taken to introduce a working family payment as promised in the Programme for Government to ensure that social welfare schemes supporting low income families do not discriminate against the self employed and farming families; when he expects such a payment will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Mattie McGrath.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 11th October, 2016.
R E P L Y
Minister for Social Protection (Leo Varadkar T.D):
The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce a ‘Working Family Payment’ targeted at low-income families. My Department is currently developing proposals for the new payment.
In doing so, we will be guided by two principles. First, that it should ensure that work pays more than welfare and that no family is better off on welfare than at work, and second, though equally important, that it has a positive effect on child poverty.
The Farm Assist scheme provides support for farmers on low incomes and is similar to Jobseeker’s Allowance. Recipients retain the advantages of the Jobseeker’s Allowance scheme such as the retention of secondary benefits and access to activation programmes.
Farm Assist is a flexible payment and any farmer experiencing lower levels of income or cash-flow issues, due, for example, to bad weather, can ask his/her local INTREO office to review the level of means applying to his/her claim.
Subject to means and other qualifying conditions, other self-employed persons may claim Jobseeker’s Allowance if their business ceases or there is reduced demand for their services. Typically over 80% of jobseeker’s allowance claims from self-employed persons have been awarded over recent years.
I am pleased that as announced in today’s budget farm income and other income from off-farm self-employment to be assessed at 70%, down from 100%, for Farm Assist, with additional annual disregard of €254 for each of the first two children and €381 for the third and other children.
• Rural Social Scheme – 500 additional places in 2017, increasing overall number to 3,100. • €5 increase in maximum weekly rate of Farm Assist and €3.30 increase for adult dependants. • Invalidity Pension is being extended to the self-employed including farmers – December 2017. • Entitlement to Dental and Optical Benefits for farmers – March 2017. • Farmers to qualify for extended range of Dental and Optical Benefits from October 2017.
These measures will be available for farmers.