Monday, 3 February 2014

Moving Businesses Forward into the Digital Age

Last week saw the opening of the Rural Payments Agency’s (RPA’s) online facility for applying to the 2014 Single Payment Scheme (SPS). In an attempt to encourage many more farmers to apply online as opposed to submitting paper forms, more than 40,000 farmers, landowners and agents across England should already have received postcards, promoting “SPS Online”.

Having used the system myself I can certainly vouch for its simplicity and it helps prevent applicants making silly mistakes but perhaps the most useful aspect is the fact that one can be certain the form has been successfully submitted which was not always the case when relying on the postal system. However, one must not be hoodwinked by the “simplicity” because the form still needs to be checked to ensure the correct fields are shown and to deal with any necessary amendments.

The RPA Operations Director, Paul Caldwell said: “The RPA is one of the leading agencies in delivering online facilities, and has worked hard to provide a number of schemes including the highly praised SPS Online. The first wave of contact (the postcard) is part of the Agency’s ongoing drive to help farmers, landowners and agents move their businesses forward into the digital age.”

As a consequence of this drive, local drop-in centres are no longer available to help farmers with any queries that they might have about their entitlements or the application process, so former users will be among those who will get offers of help from the RPA.

To use SPS Online for the first time, claimants must first register on the Government Gateway’s website; . However a word of warning is being expressed because some farmers are receiving a bogus email from informing them that the RPA has not been able to process their claim. The email also has an attachment that contains a virus and so the RPA’s advice is to not respond to the email and to delete it immediately.

This sort of scam highlights some of the dangers of the digital age that the Government and its Agencies are keen for us to embrace and will serve to make those who are already nervous about submitting such important information online, even more so.

A certain amount of caution is always needed when using any system online but with care, even an “digital luddite” like me can see the advantages will certainly outweigh the disadvantages.

If any farmers would like to know more about applying for and submitting their Single Payment Scheme applications online they can contact Carter Jonas’ Rural Team on 01749 683381.

James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells

T: 01749 683381

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