More than 76,500 claims (88%) for Basic Payment Scheme 2015 have now been completed by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), with thousands of online applications for 2016 also being submitted.
Over 10,800 online applications have been submitted in the Rural Payments service so far. With four weeks to go to the 2016 deadline, all farmers are now urged to make sure they submit their 2016 application as soon as possible.
The RPA understands the importance of BPS payments to farmers and we recognise the impact for those who have not yet received their 2015 payment. For any farmers who require urgent assistance with their cash flow, the RPA has established a financial hardship process, which has already paid out more than £8 million to 505 farmers. To access the hardship fund, farmers should call 03000 200 301.
Remaining claims to be finalised include:
Around 5,400 farmers that were inspected. The 2015 scheme required RPA to carry out more, and different, inspections because of the new greening requirements. This included new items for inspection such as Ecological Focus Areas. These claims are now being processed.
Around 3,500 claims from landowners with rights to common land. These claims have taken longer due to the new approach this year which distributes money only between those who use the common, rather than allocating a proportion based on everyone who has a registered right. This fairer approach will mean many commoners can expect a bigger payment, but it is more complicated to get these payments right as all claims on the common have to be checked first. This issue will be much reduced in 2016.
Around 1,000 claims in the final stages of completion.
Mark Grimshaw, chief executive of the RPA, said:
We understand the importance of these payments to farmers and the Agency is working round the clock to get the remaining payments checked and paid to farmers.
We are now processing some of the most complex cases such as those on common land, which we have always said would take longer to get right.
I have every sympathy for farmers who have not been paid. For those customers experiencing real difficulty, we have established a hardship fund which can be accessed to provide some immediate relief.
I want to re-assure the industry we are handling many issues that are specifically related to year one of the new scheme - and 2016 will be different.
The RPA is working seven days a week to make the remaining payments to farmers as soon as possible.
Anyone who has received a 2015 BPS claim statement and notices a difference from what they were expecting should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the RPA at the address provided on the claim statement. Letters and emails should include the subject heading ‘BPS 2015 payment’.
There may be reasons the payment seems lower than expected – for example entitlement values and the exchange rate are lower this year. This is explained on the claim statement.
The RPA confirms the payments made are based on the entitlements and eligible land data held on the Rural Payments service, which is designed to minimise the risk of over-payments. This means there may be payment differences between this control data and 2015 claims. The RPA will investigate these differences over the summer, not now, and is urging farmers and agents to focus on applying for 2016 by the 16 May deadline. The RPA has created a useful ‘hints and tips’ document to help applicants do this.
BPS 2016 - new support features introduced
Responding to feedback from farmers and agents, new features have been added to the support available to 2016 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applicants, making it easier to access some of the help needed.
Features introduced include an option for agents to speak directly to a dedicated team. There is also a 24/7 automated service for applicants who have a paper application form but want to apply online for the first time. To set up an online application form applicants just need to call 03000 200 301 and key in their SBI number and contact details.
Farmers and agents who want to add land parcels to their application can now email email@example.com to have these included. Alternatively, they can fill in a continuation booklet and post it to the RPA. These are available on GOV.UK.
All those who applied for BPS in 2015 should now have received a paper version of the ‘How to claim BPS online’ guidance. This is available on GOV.UK. Onscreen help is also available to provide a step-by-step guide on applying online.
Help is also available to farmers and agents on the helpline number above and at online support centres across the country.