With the BPS window open here are my top ten things to be aware of now and in the coming weeks running up to the application deadline of 15 May:
1. BPS 2018 – start earlier and allow more timeThere are changes to mapping, some new rules to get your head around, do not leave it to the last minute.
2. 2018 guidance
All the BPS guidance and forms are now available in one place here. Please read the guidance carefully and it goes without saying seek help if you do not understand anything. This includes theBPS Handbook which covers the full rules on greening changes for 2018. Following some changes this guide is now in version 2 and was published late on 14 March. So if you had printed off or saved a copy before 15 March you will probably have the old version.
3. Applying online or on paper?
The guidance to help you fill in your claim for both approaches is this year only available online. Only those that have historically received a paper form will get one this year and do not use an agent with submit permissions. The paper forms and a covering letter should be out by the end of March. If you are having issues with the online system there is new Trouble Shooting guide which can be found here.
4. Check online system downtime before going online
Please check availability of this service, as from time to time it is unavailable – critical as we get closer to 15 May. Refer to this gov.uk webpage.
5. Mapping changes
Please refer to the RPA guidance on understanding your digital maps first. Find the guidance here. RPA stopped updating their instigated mapping changes prior to the online application window opening on 13 March.
6. Mapped hedges
This is a new feature of the online mapping this year, but as a reminder, correct hedge information is only important for BPS claims where you have arable land and want to use hedges for your EFA requirements. Equally, the hedge information needs to be correct for an agri-environmental scheme agreement, but check the agreement details. We are expecting some further information around mapped hedges as we have found a number of issues over the last week. If claiming online and you need to claim on a hedge length for BPS and it is not showing on the maps then put the claimed length in the online land use table, and complete an RLE1 form to show RPA which elements of missing hedge need to be included to avoid problems.
7. Greening issues
As you know there are changes to the rules for 2018, now you need to carefully consider your approach to greening and in particular EFA for 2018. If claiming online, the system will allow you to complete the greening application at the same time as the BPS claim, but please read the aforementioned guidance first. There are a few points I want to make you aware of:
- Use 2018 Greening workbook to work out your greening, as in some situations the online system’s greening checker will not in every scenario arrive at the right answer. More information on page 16 of the How to Apply on line guidance.
- If you do not want to claim EFA on land use codes that are eligible for EFA (such as nitrogen fixing crops) - the principle with the online application system is that any land use code eligible for EFA will default an EFA value to your EFA claim within the BPS application that you make. This is a key issue this year as most of those growing beans or peas (or for that matter other Nitrogen Fixing crops) will not want such crops going forwards to count for EFA as you may be applying PPPs to the areas. Therefore you will need to head to the ‘Activate less EFA’ section within the BPS application part of rural payments online service to remove an EFA value where you are still wishing to claim BPS against such areas. Reading the guidance is key – the online help guidance is really help you through the process.
8. A way to save time applying online
Have you tried using two computers at the same time – you can open up an online application from more than one device at the same time. This can help if you need to look at the online mapping while completing the land use table at the same time. However make sure you remember which screen is being used to make the claim on to avoid problems!
9. Before submitting your claim
You must double check your claims for BPS and EFA before submission. If applying online, print off a copy of the claim before submitting and pay particular attention to the BPS claim and the areas shown in column C8 of the field data sheet and the summary total – are they what you expected? For EFA, please check the options you have applied for and the summary of the EFA claim - again, is this what you expected to see?
10. After submitting your claim - retain a copy of the application form, especially if applying online
Immediately after submitting an online claim, generate a new application summary, print off and save it as PDF to keep a record of application. Why? It gives exact copy of what was submitted with the date and time of submission. It does not exist anywhere else in that format. This is vital if there is a problem in the future to have a copy of everything submitted to RPA. Finally, make sure you get a receipt for a paper or online application (online there are four ways to confirm a successful submission - please read the guidance). Also remember to retain a copy of all claim paperwork if posted to the RPA and make sure any supporting documents gets to the RPA by 15 May (putting name of the front page and an SBI on every page).