Wednesday, 10 March 2004

Ceisteanna (87)

Pat Breen

Ceist:

147 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons who have their State pension reduced due to their British pension; the way it is calculated; and the exchange rate formula used as compared with the average exchange rate for a given period. [7868/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

Last October I answered a similar question on the subject by way of a written reply. In general, there has been little change in the situation since then.

Over 102,000 people receive an Irish non-contributory old age or widowed person's pension. Some 10,900 people, or 10%, also receive a British retirement pension. British pension rates in these cases are less than the maximum rate of non-contributory pension payable here. As a result the people concerned have an entitlement to a reduced rate of old age pension to, in effect, top up their British pension to the level of Irish non-contributory pension.

The rate paid in respect of Irish non-contributory pension to people with British pensions must be adjusted periodically to take account of changes in the rate of their British pension. There is a legal obligation on pensioners to notify my Department in the event of changes in their means for whatever reason.

My Department has an ongoing claim review and control programme in place for all social welfare schemes, including pensions. Each year around 300 pensioners with British retirement pensions have their non-contributory pensions reduced as a consequence of increases in their British pensions. The overall income position of these pensioners is maintained. Their Irish pension reductions arise directly as a result of corresponding increases in their other means. It is open to pensioners to seek a pension review at any time if they consider that their means have changed. Each year my Department processes many hundreds of such requests.

Normally, change in the exchange rate does not lead to the initiation of claim reviews by my Department. Nonetheless, exchange rates must be taken into account when a case is being reviewed. For non-EMU European states, including the UK, my Department continues to use the conversion mechanism provided for under Article 107 of Council Regulation (EEC) No. 574/72 on social security for migrant workers. The conversion rate used for pensions purposes is derived from the average of the daily exchange rates in the first month of a quarter. It is then used in all conversions during the course of the succeeding quarter. Alternatively, the conversion rate applicable to the next succeeding quarter is used if it is more beneficial to the pensioner.

The weekly value of the British pension income, expressed in euro, is included in a revised assessment of means from this and other sources. Where the revised assessment of means affects the rate of pension entitlement under the legislation, a revised decision on entitlement is given by a deciding officer. Pensioners are notified of the new decision and of their right of appeal to the social welfare appeals office if they are unhappy with the decision.