More Cold Comfort: How the Rural Payments Agency Handled Claims to the Single Payment Scheme in 2005 and 2006
HC 1662, Tenth Report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration Session 2010-12
- Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
- TSO (The Stationery Office)
'More Cold Comfort: How the Rural Payments Agency Handled Claims to the Single Payment Scheme in 2005 and 2006 (HC 1662)' from the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has upheld complaints from nine farmers about the Government's handling of a subsidy scheme which caused them to miss out on payments they were entitled to.
The farmers complained to the Ombudsman about the administration of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) in 2005 and 2006 by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The SPS is the latest generation of the EU schemes intended, among other policy aims, to give farmers direct income support.
The farmers complained about the RPA's handling of their claims to the SPS on a number of counts:
providing poor quality and sometimes ambiguous guidance on how to make a claim;
failing to return applicants' telephone calls when this had been promised;
misdirecting applicants about the status of their cases;
delays in communicating to applicants that they would not be paid; and
not explaining their decisions properly.
The RPA also failed to consider the effects their errors and omissions had on the farmers when they came to complain. In one case, a farmer misunderstood the new form process and did not activate his claim. He was then led to believe by the RPA that he would be paid, which was not the case. He and his wife found the confusion and uncertainty of their circumstances particularly stressful. The farmer had to increase his overdraft, sell land and take on extra part time work in order to meet the financial shortfall.
As a result of the Ombudsman's investigation the farmers will each receive a written apology from the Permanent Secretary of Defra and compensation of £500 for the inconvenience, distress and frustration that they experienced. They will also receive individual payments to put right the financial impact of the RPA's failures.
In addition, the Ombudsman has also asked the RPA to provide an action plan setting out the changes they have made to prevent other farmers experiencing the same problems in future.
|Format||Paperback||Published||30 Nov 2011|
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