Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Ceisteanna (642)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

642. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason the blind pension is not paid after a recipient reaches 66 years of age even though the recipient can receive it up to that date in addition to another social welfare payment; her plans to review this policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11597/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Blind Pension (BP) is a means-tested payment for blind and visually impaired people between the ages of 18 and 66 who are habitually resident in Ireland. According to section 161A(a) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended), a person shall be entitled to BP where the person has attained the age of 18 years but has not attained pensionable age. The payment is made up of a personal rate and extra amounts for a qualified adult and any child dependents.

The payment is administered by my Department, which contacts all BP recipients three months in advance of their 66th birthday in order to inform them that their BP payment will cease and invite them to apply for either the means-tested State Pension Non Contributory (SPNC) or the State Pension Contributory (SPC).

BP claimants would be expected to be financially better off on SPC or SPNC when 66 years or over as the weekly rate of pension is higher than for BP. As SPC is not a means-tested payment, a person can receive payment of SPC and continue to work or have other income. For those who wish to engage in work or self-employment, the earnings disregard for SPNC is also higher at €200 per week for both the claimant and their spouse.

On SPNC the first €30 of calculated means is disregarded whereas the first €7.60 is disregarded on BP.

Persons in receipt of the SPC or SPNC may also qualify for half rate Carer's Allowance.

Therefore in no case would it be expected that a claimant over 66 years of age would be financially better off on BP than on SPNC or on SPC. Any changes to the eligibility criteria for BP would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.