Minister says no plans to amend ‘anomaly’ in farmer State pension scheme

‘Farmers denied €200 disregard in the non-contributory means test.’

‘Changes to the current means testing arrangements…would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.’

Sligo News File.

Regina Doherty, the Fine Gael Minister for Social Protection, has ruled out acting on “an anomaly where farmers on reaching pension age do not receive the benefit of the earnings disregard of €200 in the means test for the State non-contributory pension.

Regina Doherty, Minister for Social Protection.

Replying to a written parliamentary question on the issue from Sligo – Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry, Doherty said that currently there were no plans to amend the means assessment for the non-contributory State Pension scheme.

She said:

“The State pension (non-contributory) is a means-tested payment and the weekly rate payable is dependent on the means of each claimant. Account is taken in the means test of the value of the property (other than the family home) and capital the person may have as well as cash income such as earnings from employment or self-employment, occupational pensions, foreign social security pensions and so on.

“These arrangements apply to all claimants for the State pension (non-contributory) as well as other means-tested welfare schemes. The rules applying to the State pension (non-contributory) do not prohibit individuals engaging in any form of self-employment; it is the means available from the net profit from such self-employment (after allowing for expenses) which determines the rate of pension payable, if any.

“It should be noted that the means assessment allows for “any expenses necessarily incurred in carrying on any form of self-employment..”. There is no exhaustive list of all expenses allowed in self-employed cases, since expenses vary with the nature and extent of the self-employment.

“The main allowable expenses in most instances are as set out in the means guidelines available on the Departmental website.

“It should also be noted that the first €30 per week means (from any

Marc MacSharry TD

source including self-employment) is disregarded for State pension (non-contributory) purposes, and that this amount is doubled in the case of a couple.

“Furthermore, a farmer in receipt of the State Pension (non-contributory) can also benefit from the disregard that exists for certain farm payments administered by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, such as the Agri-Environment Options Scheme. The first €2,540 of this and similar payments is fully disregarded, with 50% of the remainder assessed as means.

“Where a claimant for the State pension (non-contributory) is in employment, a weekly earnings disregard of €200 per week applies. This disregard is intended to facilitate non-contributory pensioners who wish to continue working, or to re-enter the workforce.

“There are currently no plans to amend the means assessment for the State Pension (non-contributory) scheme. Any such changes to the current means testing arrangements for self-employed pensioners generally would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.”