The NFU's senior BPS adviser, Richard Wordsworth, provides his third update on the 2018 application process.
With less than 20 days to go to the 15 May BPS deadline for 2018, we are seeing an increase in enquires from members on a range of application topics.
Here are some further reminders since my last blog: 'Top 10 tips for BPS 2018' blog from 20 March, which you can read here.
Have you not started yet?
I would urge you to make a start as soon as you can, it is likely the application process for many will take a bit longer this year, be that a change in approach to complying with the new EFA greening rules or making adjustments to RPA’s mapping of your land.
You may be waiting to complete spring cropping or waiting to see an agent or adviser to go through the application. In either situation you can do a lot of the proprietary work now, here are some things to think about:
Get online: if you have not logged online since last year, go on now to ensure you can get in when you want to apply. While you're there, check your claim permissions and that the RPA has your correct email address and contact details.
Entitlement and land management: you can transfer entitlements and land online now in most situations, so make any changes now. Also, sort out with others if land is changing hands and who claims. Finally, measure any crops splits for greening or ineligible features that you need to notify the RPA about to update the online mapping.
Mapping: look at your online mapping now and check that all is in order. If not, you are likely to need to completing an RLE1 form alongside completing the 2018 claim form.
Emails and Guidance: start by reading any RPA emails you have had. Updated scheme rules and how to apply online / paper and any supplementary forms for BPS 2018 will be found here: www.gov.uk/rpa/bps2018. The only way to understand the rules is to read this guidance in full, such as 2018 greening rule changes.
Change to Drop In Centre Opening Times
Following representations made to the RPA, they have this week announced they have reviewed and revised its support for those hand delivering BPS forms and related documents.
Key details can be found here: www.gov.uk/rpa/bps2018, but in short the drop in centres will be open from 23 April through to 15 May at the RPA’s six main sites (Carlisle, Exeter, Newcastle, Reading, Workington and York) to offer a check and receipt service for completed BP5 forms and supporting documents.
In terms of opening hours, they will be open during normal office hours (8.30am - 5pm) which excludes weekend opening and the bank holiday on 7 May, but there is now extended opening hours of the centres until 10pm on the day of the application deadline, Tuesday 15 May.
What do Drop in Centres Do?
As a reminder RPA is not offering face to face support at drop in centres, as in previous years RPA offer telephony support to help farmers apply online. In addition please remember there is onscreen help in the online service, which guides farmers through using the screens step-by-step, this can also be printed off for use / future reference at www.gov.uk/rpa/bps2018.
RPA Guidance / Call centre call back service
We understand and have raised concerns over the time it is taking to get through on the RPA phone number to discuss application and other BPS issues at this time of the year. Three things you could consider however first.
First there is guidance including online videos on www.gov.uk/rpa/bps2018 to assist with the completion of BPS forms, the answer is most likely to be found there – all the information is on one web page. There are trouble-shooting guides, and the on-screen help is also available, going through the application process screen by screen, a copy of this on-screen guide is also available for download or print, plus information on hedges and mapping – such as the ‘How to check and change your hedge information’. This guidance explains how to check the information we hold about hedges, whether applicants need to tell us about changes and what to do if changes do need to be made. I have seen many tweets / comments from farmers that are answered by the guidance that is out there – for example why the online greening checker is not working.
Secondly, the RPA do offer a call back service, RPA tell us they will get back to you, but in some instances the caller has provided them with an incorrect or incomplete telephone number, thus making the call back not possible, so if you do ask for a call back, please ensure the correct telephone number is left during the call.
Finally and certainly not last, as a member of the NFU, you have access to our excellent staff at CallFirst who are used to answering questions around BPS applications issues, so give them a call on 0370 845 8458, they are there Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm (except for the 7 May Bank Holiday).
Before submitting your claim
As mentioned before, as more and more claims get signed off and submitted, please ensure you 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? Equally 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?
After submitting your claim
Retain a copy of the application form, especially if you're applying online.
Remember, immediately after submitting an online claim, generate a new application summary, print it off and also save it as a PDF to keep a record of your application. This is the only way to retain an exact copy of what was submitted with the date and time of submission. This information does not exist anywhere else in that format.