Farm Assist is a means tested payment for low income farmers. The person must be a farmer between the ages of 18 and 66 and satisfy a means test. A farmer is a person engaged in farming in the state including commonage. The land must be owned or leased. Husbandry means working the land with a view to extracting traditional produce and includes afforestation and keeping poultry and livestock
Farm Assist may be available in respect of land that is neither leased nor owned where it does not to one part of a larger holding. This is applicable where there are one or more persons entitled to a co-ownership share in farmland.
The claimant must be engaged in farming. He need not be actively farming the whole of the original unit and part may be let. There is no minimum requirement, but the amount of land must reasonably be such that it can be considered a farm.
There is a special means test for Farm Assist. Unlike most other means tests, only 70 percent of the additional earnings are taken into account as means. There are disregards in respect of children.
It is payable at a flat rate with increments for qualified adults and qualified children. Where both members of the household receive it, it is limited to the maximum rate that would have been payable to an individual plus qualified adult.
There were disqualification broadly similar to those in respect of unemployment assistance. There were limited exceptions.
Rural Social Scheme.
The Rural Social Scheme permits farmers and fishermen who are unable to earn an adequate living from farms holding or fishing to earn supplementary income. The applicants must be in receipt of Farm or Fish Assist or have herd number and be in receipt of jobseekers allowance, disability allowance, one parent family payment or widowers’ contributory or non-contributory pension or be adult dependent of a non-contributory state pensioner who is are under 66.
A person in receipt of the above but does not have a Farm Assist or Fish Assist may use a brother or sister or parent’s herd number.
The works done must be of benefit to the community. They may include a range of works including environmental service, caring services, general community services, heritage and cultural services and educational services.
Environmental services may include energy conservation work in community buildings or low-income houses, renovation of community and sporting facilities, development, regeneration and enhancement of community spaces, neighbourhood and village and country enhancement including clean up, recycling and repair of equipment.
Caring services may include social care, personal aid for persons with ill health and restricted mobility, services for children in crèches and childcare, preparation of meals for older people, visitation, general call and befriending programs for older people and those with mental health issues, confined to home.
General community services include caretaking, supervising of community buildings, administration, web design, social media, production of newsletters, community research and evaluation including genealogy, event management promotion and administration, retail services in charity and community settings, promotion and support for volunteering.
Heritage and cultural services may include promotion of the Irish language and cultural activities, development and maintenance of walking, cycling and leisure trails, administration, marketing and promotion of local heritage sites and events, staffing of cultural tourism and heritage centres.
Educational services may include early years and afterschool support for children and young people, services for children in crèche and childcare settings, literacy, numeracy and related supports for adults or children with limited command of English or Irish, assistance with recreational opportunities including coaching, training, art and music classes, actions to develop and support the school completion program and related initiatives.
Participants work 19.5 hours a week. The hours may be adopted to accommodate fishing and farming Payments are made direct to bank account. The amount payable depends on the circumstances. Entitlement to benefits is conditional upon the usual assessment procedures. Participants must meet the conditions attached to secondary benefits in order to continue to qualify.
A farmer must show that he is actively farming. A herd number and single payment particulars must be furnished.
A fisherman must be a self-employed fisherman or woman on a fishing boat entered on the register of fishing boats, or a pot fishing license, a holder of commercial salmon fishing, eel fishing licence, aquaculture permit holder for shell fishing.
In most cases the rate is the equivalent of the existing payment with a €20 top-up. Class A PRSI contributions are paid on behalf of RSS participants. They are exempt from USC.
The scheme is administered locally by a local RSS implementing body.
Community Work Placement Initiative
Tus is the community work placement initiative. It is designed to assist work readiness. It provides short term opportunities for persons who are unemployed while provided community benefits.
Applicants must be unemployed for at least 12 months in receipt of jobseekers’ payments. Participants are selected by the Department from those satisfying conditions. They will identify and contact persons who satisfy the criteria and offer them the opportunity to be considered for local placement.
When persons agree they are referred to the local development company or Udaras na Gaeltachta in Gaeltacht regions for interview. The local development company and the Udaras maintain panels of persons for recruitment. The local development company considers suitability for the type of work concerned.
All works and services for delivery to the community and voluntary sectors are potentially eligible. Works similar to those in the Rural Social Scheme and also wider categories of work.
Participants are expected to work 19.5 hours a week. Payments are made directly. Class A PRSI is paid in respect of participants. They are exempt from Universal Social Charge. The placement is for a year. A person on the scheme cannot join it again for three years.
Entitlement to secondary benefits is subject to the general assessment procedures.
Community and voluntary associations are responsible for costs not covered by Tus. They are required to make a contribution.
The 2012 Act increased the rate of assessment of self-employment income from farming and fishing from 85% to 100%, in the case of the Farm Assist, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pre-Retirement Allowance and Disability Allowance schemes. The 2012 Act provides for the abolition of the annual child related income disregards in respect of qualified children who normally reside with such claimants (currently €127 per year for each of the first two dependent children and €190.50 per year for each subsequent child). The changes take effect from the beginning of April 2013.
The 2016 Act provides for the inclusion of a reference to the Green, Low- Carbon, Agri-Environment scheme (GLAS) operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the relevant Schedule to the Act in order to provide that income from this scheme shall be partially disregarded in assessing means for social assistance payments.
The 2016 Act provides for the reintroduction of the income disregards and tapering arrangements which applied to the Farm Assist scheme before Budget 2012. This measure came into effect from 8 March 2017.
The 2021 Act S. 20 provides for the expansion of the list of agri-environmental schemes (e.g. Glas) attracting the specific means disregard applicable to jobseeker’s allowance, farm assist and state pension (non-contributory).