Farm leaders and agents have voiced concerns about the registration process for England’s new digital-only single farm payments system.
Problems getting people through a series of online security checks have raised the question of whether the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) may be forced to offer telephone registration much more widely than previously expected.
Agents and farmers who have been invited to register for the system have reported difficulties in getting their identities cleared using the Verify website, which uses information from third-party assurance providers such as Experian and Verizon.
Guy Smith, NFU vice-president, said because the originally proposed Verify system seemed to rely on individuals having a “thick” credit history, such a mortgage it was a bad fit for farmers.
Mr Smith said: “The ring round ‘plan B’ seems to be working well but our concern is that it is only at light use at the moment. The question is do the RPA have the necessary telephone manpower to register thousands upon thousands of farmer applicants in a short period of time to then allow the farmer to get on and review data and then build up their claims?
“If they do have the trained resource then great, but if it means farmers in February hanging on the telephone finding they are in a queue of 20 trying to get through to someone then obviously this won’t be satisfactory.”
George Chichester, partner at Strutt & Parker’s Newbury office, said he had been rejected by the online Verify system because he held a driver’s licence without photo ID.
“Frustratingly, it is not clear until the end of the registration process that you need this so I filled in the application form – for 15 minutes or so – until I got to that part and was then instructed I could not continue any further and would have to telephone the RPA instead.”
“The whole thing is causing us real concern – we are worried we are going to be back where we were in 2005.” Sarah Reece, Berry Bros
Sarah Reece, associate partner at Berry Bros’ Shrewsbury office, said her own attempt to get through Verify also ended in failure and she has tried twice since to register by telephone but has been unsuccessful too.
“The whole thing is causing us real concern – we are worried we are going to be back where we were in 2005.”
An RPA spokesman the new digital service was being built in such a way that it allowed the agency to respond to feedback and make improvements.
The telephone service was an alternative option for people wanting to confirm their identity and was introduced when the RPA started inviting agents to apply. Farmers would be asked to register “very soon”, he added.
“Customers can now confirm their identity by calling our helpline on 03000 200 301. This is a new route for people who are already registered with the agency where customers will be asked questions based on the information the agency has about their business in order to prove their identity.
“The RPA is committed to ensuring that all those who want to claim rural payments in 2015 will be able to do so and we are resourcing the agency appropriately.”