Dáil Éireann - Volume 377 - 02 February, 1988

Written Answers. - Assessment for Unemployment Assistance.

72. Mr. Nealon asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a particular difficulty is arising for farmers in the social welfare code who have to sell off their herds because of outbreaks of bovine TB and that the compensation received for the cattle, although not near the actual market value, is calculated as capital in assessment of the farmers who apply for unemployment assistance; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the interest on the capital does not keep pace with the increase in the price of cattle and that the capital and the interest fall far short of the money required to replace the stock when allowed to do so by the Department of Agriculture and Food; and if, in view of this he will instruct that this capital is disregarded in the unemployment assistance application.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Income from farming for unemployment assistance purposes is assessed under section 146 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1981, as amended by section 13 of the Social Welfare (No. 2) Act, 1985 and the Unemployment Assistance (Calculation of Means Regulations)

[717] Order, 1934 as the yearly advantage accruing from the farm.

In calculating the advantage accruing from the farm the social welfare officer has regard to the income and expenditure involved in earning the income from the enterprise. The calculation is done on an income and expenditure basis and represents the income from farming less any expenses actually and necessarily incurred in earning that income. The basis of the calculation is the net income over the 12 months preceding the investigation of means.

Where at the time the assessment is carried out the normal pattern of farming has been distorted by unusual factors due allowance is made for such factors. The aim of the assessment is that it should reflect the net income from the farm in a normal year. Obviously herd depletion arising from outbreaks of bovine TB would distort the normal pattern of farming and due consideration is taken of this situation when assessing the means.

If a farmer who is in receipt of unemployment assistance asks for a review of means following depopulation of herd because of bovine TB his means would be assessed on the basis of the estimated income from the farm in the succeeding 12 month period having due regard to the difficulties encountered by him. Any capital held by him, whether arising out of compensation received or otherwise, would have to be assessed in the normal way. The legislative basis for assessing the value of such capital as means is to take 5 per cent of the first £400 and 10 per cent of the balance. When the capital is subsequently used for the purpose of restocking the land and a degree of normality has returned to the farming enterprise the case would generally be reviewed again so that the means assessment would reflect the normal situation.

The current method of assessment in such cases is considered fair in that it is designed to represent the actual financial circumstances of the claimant. Consequently it is not proposed to make any changes in the method of assessment. [718] Furthermore where a claimant is dissatisfied with the amount of means assessed against him it is open to him to appeal and have his case determined by an appeals officer.