Concerns over the limited resources being provided by Rural Payments Wales for one-to-one support for farmers completing online Single Application Forms have been raised by the Tenant Farmers Association.
“With all SAF having to be completed online this year farmers will need all the support they can get,” TFA Cymru chairman, Dennis Matheson said today (Wednesday, April 6).
“But it is concerning and nonsense to hear that when farmers telephone RPW to book an advisory appointment they are being told that they will have to wait at least one month before they can be seen.
“This means that those who do not book early enough will not be able to have the support they need before the SAF 2016 closing date in the middle of May, which is very worrying indeed.
“RPW has issued helpful guidance to assist individuals in completing online applications however this is very much tailored to those who are used to using computers in making online applications,” he added.
“The guidance does include a range of demonstration videos to show the main functionality of the online system and while I welcome this for those who feel confident to use the online system, it is a foreign country to those who are not computer literate.
“We want to help RPW in encouraging individuals to go down the online route but we must have adequately supported advisory services if this is to be achieved,” added Mr Matheson.
“With 2016 being the first year which the Welsh Government has made it compulsory for applicants to apply online for BPS, it is essential that the necessary support and resources are readily available for claimants.
“On top of the need for developing IT skills of claimants, there are many Welsh farmers living in remote areas of the country who simply do not have adequate internet connectivity.
“The one to one support service will be a lifeline for many farmers and it will be a disaster if, as appears will be the case, many farmers who need it will miss out due to lack of adequate resources from RPW.”