Dáil Éireann - Volume 537 - 29 May, 2001

Written Answers. - Farm Retirement Scheme.

155. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the reason farm retirement applications are not deemed valid even though the form has been completed and all the requirements of the checklist fulfilled (details supplied); if he intends to revise the checklist in view of this fact; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15631/01]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): An application is deemed valid once the application form is fully completed and all of the necessary documentation is submitted. In this case the application was received in the Department on 19 December 2000 the day before the applicant reached her sixty-sixth birthday. On examination, deficiencies were found in the application form and the supporting documentation was not complete. My Department wrote to the applicant advising her of these deficiencies and informing her that the application was invalid. Unfortunately, she has now passed her sixty-sixth birthday, the maximum age for eligibility under the scheme. This case is being reviewed further in the context of a query from the Office of the Ombudsman.

156. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if an appeal board has been established to deal with the farm retirement scheme; the current appeal process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15632/01]

[417] Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): The Second Stage of legislation setting up the agriculture appeals office is scheduled for consideration by the Dáil in the current session. This legislation provides for appeals by applicants under the early retirement scheme. Pending the passage of this legislation, interim procedures for dealing with appeals by applicants for the early retirement pension have been put in place. These provide for a review of the decision by the regional inspector where the decision on the application was given by the rural development and environment inspector, and by a senior official in the early retirement section where the decision on the application was taken in that section. Applicants have the option of bringing their cases to the Ombudsman should they be dissatisfied with the outcome of my Department's internal procedures.

157. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the reason a farm retirement application is not considered for either eligibility or payment from the date of receipt of the application rather than the date of validation in line with other Government Departments such as Social, Community and Family Affairs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15633/01]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): The position is that applicants under the early retirement scheme must prove their eligibility by satisfying its conditions. If an application is received which does not meet the criteria it cannot be validated until such time as those criteria are met. There is a fundamental difference between the payments made under the various schemes administered by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs and the early retirement pension. The former derive from an entitlement based on contributions paid, or on need determined by a person's financial circumstances and entitlement is automatic.