There are various State benefits and welfare entitlements available to farmers.

Some of the main ones are: contributory state pension for you and your spouse; widows/widowers contributory pension; carer’s benefit; carers allowance; carer’s support grant; invalidity pension; child benefit; family income supplement; farm assist; and rural social scheme.

In order to qualify, there are various rules and regulations around all of these benefits.

State pension (contributory)

Currently, the PRSI scheme for the self-employed entitles farmers to a state pension (contributory) on reaching their 66th birthday, providing they have made the necessary PRSI Class S contributions. This is not means tested – you can have other income and still get it. To qualify you need to have a set minimum number of contributions. It is possible the qualifying age of 66 may increase in the future.

How do I know if I qualify?

The number of paid PRSI contributions you need to qualify for a State pension (contributory) depends on your retirement date, the number of contributions and the yearly average. You need to have 520 paid contributions (10 years of contributions) since entering into insurable employment.

To qualify for the maximum contributory State pension (€248.30 per week), you must have a yearly average of 48 PRSI contributions or more per annum (or at least 2,080 aggregated contributions). If your contributions are less than this, your weekly pension payment will be less.

You can request a copy of your social insurance (PRSI) record online at It is recommended to apply for the State (contributory) pension three months before reaching 66 years.

State pension (non-contributory)

The non-contributory state pension is means tested. Currently, the maximum personal weekly rate is €237 (a person aged over 66 and under 80). If over 80 years old the weekly rate is €247.

‘Am I eligible for the carer’s allowance?’

Dear Money Mentor

I am a carer to my two elderly aunts who live together in their home. They both have underlying conditions but are quite independent for their age. They live nearby. I do their shopping, banking, some cooking and help them both in the mornings and at night.

One of my family sleep over each night in their house in case they need help. They both avail of the old age pension. My own children are all over 18, although living at home, so I am free to help out. My husband is a part-time beef farmer with an off-farm income. Our total income would be considered low. I am wondering if I would be eligible for a carer’s allowance for my aunts or how would I go about it.

I would appreciate any advice you can give me,



Margaret writes

Hi Carol,

Thanks for the email. Your situation is so typical of lots of families in Ireland today.

The carer’s allowance is a payment to people on low incomes who are looking after a person(s) who need support because of age, disability or illness. There are certain requirements for a carer to qualify for the allowance, the main criteria being:

You must be over 18, satisfy a means test and care for the person(s) on a full-time basis.

A carer cannot be in employment, self-employment, training or education courses for more than 18.5 hours a week.

Be resident in the state.

The person(s) being cared for must be so incapacitated as to require full-time care and attention. This requirement will be assessed on an individual basis. It is not intended that a carer would be expected to provide care on a 24-hour basis. There is a degree of flexibility here, with due regard to both the needs of the carer and the person(s) requiring care.

This allowance is means tested, which basically means assessing your income (excluding your home). As you are married, the first €665 of your combined gross weekly income will not be taken into account when assessing your means.

Any savings or investments up to €40,000 are not counted in the case of a couple. As you are caring for two people, your rate of carer’s allowance can be increased by 50% (maximum) each week, subject to the means test assessment.

There is also a carer’s support grant (€1,850) which is an annual payment made to carers by the Department of Social Protection in June each year. Carers can use this grant in whatever way they wish. This grant is paid automatically to all carers getting the carer’s allowance. This grant is not taxable.

Once the means test assessment is complete, the payment will be made up of a personal rate for yourself and extra amounts for any dependant children. If you are aged under 66 years and caring for one person, the maximum weekly rate is €219, if caring for two persons, the maximum rate is €328.50. Different rates apply if you are over 66 years. As you are married and if any of your children are dependant, you can claim a half rate of €22.50 per dependant child. This is payable to carers living with their spouse for all dependant children older than 12 years. This rate is higher if the carer is single, separated or widowed.

You should apply for the carer’s allowance as soon as possible. You can get an application form from your local Intreo office or Citizens Information centre.

Best of luck with the application,


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