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State Pensions

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 25 November 2021

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Ceisteanna (292)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

292. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which she expects to be in a position to address the pensions issue for persons who have gaps in their contribution record for whatever reason, with a view to ensuring the availability of a payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58187/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Subject to the standard qualifying conditions for State Pension (Contributory) also being satisfied, the State pension system already provides significant recognition to those whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, often to raise families or in a full-time caring role.

This is provided through the award of credits and/or the application of the Homemaker’s Scheme (under the Yearly Average method for payment calculation) and/or the application of HomeCaring Periods (under the Aggregated Contribution Method, also known as the interim Total Contributions Approach).

For those with insufficient contributions to meet the requirements for a State pension (contributory), they may qualify for a means tested State pension (non-contributory), the maximum personal rate for which is €237 (over 95% of the maximum rate of the contributory pension). This rate of payment does not include rent allowance, household benefits or fuel allowance which they may also be entitled to. Alternatively, if their spouse is a State pensioner and they have significant household means, their most beneficial payment may be an Increase for a Qualified Adult, based on their personal means, and amounting up to 90% of a full contributory pension.

The Pensions Commission was established in November 2020 to examine the sustainability of the State Pension system and the Social Insurance Fund, in fulfilment of a Programme for Government commitment. The Commission was an independent body comprised of knowledgeable and experienced academics, pension experts, members of civil society and representatives of workers and employers. The Commission has completed its work and its report was published on 7th October 2021. The Commission's Report, its Technical Sub-Committee's working papers, and submissions made to the Commission are available on the Commission’s website, pensionscommission.gov.ie.

The Commission’s Report is a comprehensive report that takes account of an assessment of various analyses of population, labour force and expenditure projections; an examination of international approaches; and responses to an extensive consultation process. It has unambiguously established that the current State Pension system is not sustainable into the future and that changes are needed, and it has set out a wide range of recommendations in this regard. These recommendations include enhanced provisions for long-term carers (in excess of 20 years), full transition to a Total Contributions Approach and allowing a person to continue to pay social insurance contributions past State Pension Age to improve their record for State Pension Contributory purposes.

The report has been referred to the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands and to the Commission for Taxation and Welfare for its views. I understand that, in this regard, both the Chair of the Commission, Ms. Josephine Feehily and the Chair of its Technical Sub-Committee, Ms. Roma Burke met with the Joint Committee on 17th November 2021. Officials from my Department also attended this meeting.

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 Commission’s Report very carefully and holistically. My officials will work over the coming months to examine each of the recommendations. They will consult across Government through the Cabinet Committee system. I think it is really important that we complete that work before reaching conclusions. I intend to bring a recommended response and implementation plan to Government by the end of March 2022.

The State Pension is the bedrock of the pension system in Ireland. It 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.

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