Written answers

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Department of Social and Family Affairs

Social Insurance

9:00 pm

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Question 289: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there are proposals to provide a time limited amnesty for farmers whereby retrospective PRSI contributions could be made and to exclude short periods of earlier employment when applying the averaging rule. [27496/07]

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Question 290: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there are proposals for farmers to be allowed to make retrospective PRSI contributions to provide at least a 98% pension. [27497/07]

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 289 and 290 together.

In order to qualify for a contributory pension a person must satisfy a range of conditions which include commencing payment of contributions 10 years before pension age, payment of a minimum of 260 contributions at an appropriate rate and reaching a minimum average annual contribution rate of at least 10 contributions paid or credited. An average of 48 contributions is needed for a full pension.

The average contribution test is a key qualifying condition and ensures that those receiving a pension have demonstrated an adequate and ongoing attachment to the social insurance system over their working lives. A concession in this regard was made to self-employed persons who became compulsorily insured on the 6th April 1988 in that any previous PRSI record they may have can be disregarded, if that is to their advantage, when eligibility for pension is being assessed.

The issue of gaps in a person's insurance record impacts on a number of different groups, not just the self-employed, and any changes would therefore have to be looked at in the context of the system as a whole. These issues are discussed in the Green Paper on Pensions, which I published on the 17th October, and changes to the system will be considered in the context of the framework for long-term pension's policy, which will be developed after the consultation process is completed.

Eligibility to contribute to the system of social insurance is based on a person's income and employment status. There is no legislative basis, and none is planned, under which retrospective contributions, which were not due in the first place, can be accepted. It is, of course open to those who fail to qualify for a contributory pension, or who qualify for a reduced payment, to apply for the means tested state pension (non-contributory).

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