A farmer had his appeal for a Farm Assist payment disallowed last year, after it was found that his means exceeded the limit applicable to his personal circumstances.
It was one of 132 appeals cases the Social Welfare Appeals Office dealt with in 2020.
The farmer was assessed with weekly means of €450 from farming, his spouse’s insurable employment and capital from savings and a rental property.
The farmer contended in his appeal that the Department of Social Protection did not take into account expenses in relation to loans on the farm and the purchase of farm machinery, PRSI, property tax, credit card repayments, maintenance of the family home, family medical expenses, running costs of his spouse’s car for work and the cost of transporting children to their sports activities and his health.
In its consideration, the Social Welfare Appeals Office said that where a farmer is entitled to or in receipt of Farm Assist, means are based on the gross yearly income which the farmer may reasonably be expected to receive from farming or any other form of self-employment, less any expenses necessarily incurred in carrying on any form of self-employment.
The appeals officer noted that while the means assessment is based on the income for the previous year, the assessment must give a fair and reasonable assessment of the net income which the holding will provide annually, that is an average annual income over the next number of years.
“It is based on the expected annual income having regard to normal output and costs appropriate to normal stock levels, capacity and market trends.
'Fair and reasonable'
“The appeals officer found that the assessment of farm means was fair and reasonable on the basis of the evidence.
"It was noted that the assessment took account of interest on farm loans and had allowed reasonable deductions in relation to fuel costs for the farm and the purchase of farm machinery.
“The appeals officer noted that there is no provision in governing legislation which allows domestic or personal living expenses including medical expenses, property tax, fuel expenditure in relation to family activities, home maintenance, etc, to be taken into account,” the Social Welfare Appeals Office said in its annual report for 2020.
The appeals officer was satisfied that the calculations were correct and in accordance with the governing legislation.
They found that the Department’s assessment of means was in line with the provisions of means in relation to farm income, spouse’s insurable employment and capital.
As a result, it said, the farmer’s means remained in excess of the limit applicable to his personal circumstances and the appeal was disallowed.
Appeals in 2020
The Social Welfare Appeals Office received 76 appeals in relation to the Farm Assist payment in 2020 and, including appeals carried over from 2019, had 132 appeal cases.
Of this number, 74 cases were decided, 20 received a revised decision and seven were withdrawn. By the end of 2020, 31 appeals were still in progress.
Almost 10% of appeals were allowed, 8% were partially allowed, 19.8% of decisions were revised by the deciding officer and 55.4% were disallowed. Almost 7% were withdrawn.