Dáil Éireann - Volume 584 - 28 April, 2004
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Mr. McCormack Mr. McCormack
76. Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the numbers availing of and the amount of funding involved in the farm assist scheme in each year it has been in operation, giving details on a county basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12178/04]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
Mary Coughlan: Farm assist is a weekly means tested scheme which provides a payment for low income farmers. The scheme was introduced in April 1999. The amount paid to each farmer is dependent on a number of factors. These include family size, whether the spouse-partner is working and the value of means assessed. Farmers who have income from another source, such as other self-employment, insurable employment, capital and so forth, may qualify for a payment subject to such earnings being included in the means test.
The maximum personal rate per week is €134.80 with increases of €89.40 per week being paid in respect of a qualified adult and €16.80 per week for each child dependent, or €8.40 at the half rate. The average payment to farm assist customers in April 2004 was €143.59 per week. The scheme, therefore, makes a valuable contribution to supporting those on low incomes in the farming sector and to combating social exclusion in rural communities.
In respect of the statistical information sought by the Deputy, I am attaching to my response a tabular statement which shows the numbers of recipients by county at the end of each year since 1999. It should be noted that statistics are maintained only by local office catchment area and these areas do not in all cases correspond with county boundaries. Furthermore, with regard to local office areas, the only data  available is about the numbers availing of the scheme. This, however, gives a reasonable indication of expenditure by county.
The highest numbers of recipients are based in the counties of Mayo and Donegal. Between these two counties recipients account for  approximately one third of all farm assist recipients, suggesting that spending is reasonably targeted at disadvantaged areas. The numbers availing of the scheme have grown by 837 over the five year period since the scheme was introduced. Expenditure on the farm assist scheme since it commenced in 1999 is as follows.
It is estimated that the scheme will cost €69.7 million this year, which is a 350% increase in expenditure since it commenced in 1999 and is proof of this Government’s commitment to low income families who are engaged in farming.
Dáil Éireann 584 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.