Welfare fraud has got plenty of headlines recently. However, we do not hear enough about people who were not paid what they were due by Social Welfare. Retired farmers and their spouses continue to lose out on State pensions. In many cases, this is due to the complication of the system, leading to people simply not understanding the importance of Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions.

That is something Noel Leahy, from Donohill, Co Tipperary, has clearly discovered. We have featured Noel on the Money Mentor pages in the past. He started out just helping a few people locally with their applications. Encouraged by demand, he launched the first private service to assist people with claims, especially where they have previously missed out.

I asked Noel to keep me informed of the types of cases he deals with. I contacted him recently to see if he had any more “big wins” for people who had not realised they were due State pensions. He certainly had. To date, he has helped people reclaim as much as €1.7m. Now there’s a headline.

Cheque for €63,000

In one of Noel’s most recent cases, he was successful in recouping a cheque to the value of €63,000 from the Department of Social Welfare. The farmer had been on Farm Assist and had not paid PRSI contributions. His wife died in 2004 but she had paid her own PRSI contributions. The farmer didn’t realise he could claim a pension from his wife’s contributions. On an application for the Farm Assist scheme in 2007, he had put down that he was a widower. So after pursuing the case, the Department of Social Welfare back-paid him to that date and paid him arrears, as well as €233 per week for his pension.

A separate case that Noel worked on was that of a 90-year-old who had never even applied for a pension. When he looked into the case, the person received €50,000 in back money and a full pension of €250 a week. “I am still looking for an additional €70,000 to complete the arrears,” said Noel. There were many other cases where smaller amounts were received and many who after reading the articles were able to look into making claims themselves. People can go directly to their local Social Welfare office and citizen’s information centre, both of which have good information and people can be helped free of charge.

the Homemaker’s Scheme

The Homemaker’s Scheme was introduced in 1994. Women or men who remained at home to mind children can get up to 20 years taken out of their PRSI record. This can dramatically improve their yearly average. Noel has recently dealt with four such cases.

After advice, two of them increased their average pension payment by €46 a week, while the other two have increased their pensions by €11 per week.

“This scheme is becoming much more important now that the old-age pension is divided into six bands. Disregarding the years under the homemaking scheme could help someone get into a higher band, which would be worth a lot over their lifetime,” said Noel.

“Getting an extra €10 a week might not seem much but can add up to a lot if you live until 90 years old.” CL

Partnership benefits

The other route some have gone to get backdated PRSI contributions is a farming situation where the wife has looked to be set up as a partnership retrospectively.

Noel has successfully dealt with a number of these cases.

One case saw an increase in pension payments from €93 to €193 a week. That’s over €5,000 per annum. Recent changes means it is easier for spouses to pay PRSI once they are assigned a minimum of €5,000 reckonable income from the farm each year. This enables them to pay €500 in PRSI contributions to get credits of 52 weeks for each year.

“This is one thing that every farmer where both spouses work on farm should look at,” Noel said.

Noel has found many other cases where people are not getting all the entitlements they are due.

“Most rural dwellers are not familiar with the conditions governing the range of social welfare schemes. They can be very complicated,” he said.

PRSI records

One of the key requirements to get a State pension is to have 520 PRSI contributions paid.

One farmer’s wife had only 511 contributions. When they applied for her PRSI contribution record, there was a gap of six months where she realised she had worked. The contributions had not been recorded and when they were she passed the 520 mark and got a pension. Another farmer increased his pension by €53 a week and got €15,000 in arrears back to 2011.


• Many farmers and their spouses are missing out on social welfare entitlements.

• Arrears can be paid in specific circumstances.

• The Homemaker’s Scheme can help to get into a higher band for old-age pension.

• Partnerships can be retrospective.

• Look to get PRSI contributions for both spouses.

• Information and advice is available from the Department of Social Welfare or your local citizen’s information centre.

Noel Leahy, Co Tipperary, offers a private service to assist people with claims. Contact 087-266 3443 between 7pm and 8pm or email noelpatleahy@eircom.net

Next week

We explain the PRSI system fully