Older farmers are closing out as support goes online
Thousands of elderly farmers are left without access to government and business services and support due to the increasing online shift of information and application forms.
With around 42,000 farmers now over the age of 65, Age Action research suggests that around 25 per cent of this group does not use the internet, and this proportion rises to 56 per cent for those over 75.
The launch of the new Cap relies on an unprecedented level of digital engagement, and many farmers are relying on family members or advisors to provide information about new supports and regulations, while also helping to apply for new programs.
Celine Clarke, Head of Advocacy at Age Action, said taking a digital-first approach to the launch of a new policy or service really undermines the ability of many older people to participate and get their work done.
INHFA President Vincent Roddy said farmers of a certain age (usually over 50) often have limited IT skills and unless they have family members or neighbors to help them, cooperation with the Department of Agriculture is limited.
Those without this support have a choice of enlisting the help of an agricultural consultant, not applying for programs, or attempting to resolve issues with department staff by phone or mail.
“Unfortunately, we are concerned that support is not there and the trend seems to be for more and more people/farmers to be pushed online, much to their frustration, anger and expense,” Mr Roddy said.
ICMSA President Pat McCormack said there needs to be a degree of understanding and consideration for older farmers who don’t have access to computers or smartphones, or who don’t rely on their own ability to use them competently.
Acknowledging the administrative benefits of moving to online only, Mr McCormack said some accommodations should be made for those who cannot go online and get involved that way.
“I would be the same as any farmer in Ireland as I know some older neighboring farmers who may not be comfortable or have the computer skills to get involved with any level of confidence,” he said.
“Very often they get a younger relative who has the know-how to go online and fill out the applications or forms, but there must be hundreds if not thousands of people who may not have access to that help. Clearly the ministry should have a dedicated team or hotline that can process ‘offline’ applications or send ‘paper’ forms and then guide farmers through the process over the phone.”
The ministry said it understands cap changes require additional communication and the schemes are sometimes complex.
“We are committed to providing the highest level of customer service to all of our customers to ensure participants in these programs have a good understanding of their terms and conditions,” it said in a statement.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/older-farmers-shut-out-as-supports-move-to-online-42330203.html Older farmers are closing out as support goes online