The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is inviting thousands more farmers and landowners throughout England to take the first online step towards claiming this year’s new scheme payments.
RPA CEO Mark Grimshaw, speaking at the NFU Council on Tuesday (20 January), announced a significant ramping up of the numbers invited to register on the new rural payments online service.
He also set out what farmers will be able to do and by when in order to start building their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) 2015 claim and reaffirmed the RPA’s commitment to ensuring a package of support is in place to ensure all customers who want to claim rural payments are able to do so.
This included extended opening hours, including Saturdays and Sundays, for the rural payments helpline and the setting up of a network of 50 support centres across the country to help some farmers and landowners make their claim.
Mr Grimshaw said:
The new online service is designed to make it as simple as possible for farmers and landowners to get their money under the new, changed ‘single farm payment’ rules.
We’re continuing to release the service gradually so we can gather feedback and improve the technology as we go. People can get started on the new service, checking their details and building their application, but won’t be able to make a complete claim until March.
Working with industry partners we opened up the service to thousands of their members over Christmas and the New Year. Most recently was yesterday when I asked the NFU to begin inviting 3,000 of their members a day onto the new service.
We would urge anyone who wants to make a claim to get registered as soon as they are invited and we will take them through the journey with plenty of time to make changes.
The new rules mean we have to gather lots of new information so the first year might take a bit of time for some, but, once all the information is in, subsequent years will be a lot quicker.
Details of what customers will be able to do and when can be found on the CAP Reform Blog
Mr Grimshaw explained that at the end of last year the Agency was focussed on getting farm and land agents, representing about a third of all RPA customers, onto the new system. To date, more than 82 per cent of firms of agents have registered and are ready to start supporting their clients through the process.
As announced last September, RPA has also been assessing what sort of help customers may need to get online including a national network of 50 support centres where customers will get one-to-one help with making a claim. These sessions are by appointment only so anyone who thinks they may need help should call the rural payments helpline on 03000 200 301 to discuss what is on offer.
Before accessing the new online service for the first time, customers will also have to prove they are who they say they are. There are two routes: the new digital route, GOV.UK Verify, which in time will enable them to access a range of government services as well as rural payments; and the RPA telephone identity check for existing Single Payment Scheme (SPS) customers which can be accessed via the rural payments helpline.
Mr Grimshaw said:
Our plan is to continue to release the system gradually making more elements of the service available week by week. Since mid-December those registered or their agent have been able to register personal and business details and start checking the data we hold on their maps and land. Farmers and landowners have also been able to appoint an agent or someone else to act on their behalf.
Next month is when the system will start to display things we think you need to check such as land parcels, and you’ll be able to react and amend them. This includes adding information on land cover and usage.
From March you can confirm entitlements and eligibility, and can complete and submit your 2015 claims up until the 15 May. We will tell customers what they need to do and when they need to log back in.
I remain committed to ensuring that farmers have the ability to access all the funding that they are entitled to and I will endeavour to focus all of the resource at my disposal to make this happen.
But if we are to achieve the outcomes we all want, we need to recognise that we all have a role to play and I would urge you and your fellow farmers to get involved now and not leave things to the last minute.