This Government acknowledges the important role that carers play and is fully committed to supporting them in that role. The Programme for Government “Our Shared Future” includes a commitment to examine options for a pension solution for carers, the majority of whom are women, particularly those of incapacitated children, in recognition of the enormous value of the work carried out by them.
The Pensions Commission was established in November 2020 to examine the sustainability of the State Pension system and the Social Insurance Fund. The Commission’s terms of reference included consideration of how people who have provided long-term care for incapacitated dependants can be accommodated within the State Pension system.
The Pensions Commission’s Report which was published on 7th October 2021, established that the current State Pension system is not sustainable into the future and that changes are needed. The report set out a wide-range of recommendations in relation to the State Pension system and Social Insurance Fund. It recommended that long-term carers (defined as caring for more than 20 years) should be given access to the State Pension (Contributory) by having retrospective contributions paid for them by the Exchequer for any gaps in their contribution history arising from that caring. The Commission also recommended that relevant Departments should examine, in conjunction with relevant stakeholders, options for the creation of a statutory "Family Carer Register" which could, in time, facilitate the identification of long-term carers for State Pension (Contributory) purposes as well as assisting in the planning and delivery of services for family carers.
In the interests both of older people and of future generations of older people, the Government intends to consider the comprehensive and far-reaching recommendations in the Pensions Commission’s Report very carefully and holistically. My officials are examining each of the recommendations and consulting across Government through the Cabinet Committee system. The views of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands and the Commission on Taxation and Welfare will be considered as part of the Government’s deliberations.
It is really important that we complete that work before reaching conclusions on any one recommendation, such as the recommendations related to long-term carers. In this regard, I intend bringing a recommended response and implementation plan to Government in the coming weeks.
As the bedrock of the pension system in Ireland, the State Pension is extremely effective at ensuring that our pensioners do not experience poverty. This Government is committed to ensuring that this remains the case for current pensioners, those nearing State Pension age and today’s young workers including those who are only starting their careers.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.