Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Department of Social and Family Affairs
The social welfare pension rights of those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties are protected by the homemaker's scheme which was introduced in and took effect from 1994. The scheme allows up to 20 years spent caring for children under 12 years of age or incapacitated adults to be disregarded when a person's social insurance record is being averaged for pension purposes.
However, the scheme will not of itself qualify a person for a pension. The standard qualifying conditions, which require a person to enter insurance 10 years before pension age, pay a minimum of 260 contributions at the correct rate and achieve a yearly average of at least 10 contributions on their record from the time they enter insurance until they reach pension age, must also be satisfied.
There are also a number of other ways in which pension entitlements can be protected. People who qualify for payments such as carer's allowance or carer's benefit may, subject to conditions, qualify for credited contributions for the period during which they receive the payment. In addition, over the last 10 years, the Government has taken a number of measures to make qualification for contributory pension easier. These include a reduction in the yearly contribution rate required for a minimum pension from 20 to 10, and the introduction of special measures such as the pre-53 pension.
The Green Paper on pensions considered a number of issues related to the qualifying conditions for a social welfare contributory pension. A framework for future pensions policy is being developed and the issue of contribution conditions will be further addressed in that context. It is expected that the framework will be finalised shortly. As the person concerned will not reach pension age for several years, it is not possible to say whether she would qualify for a pension at that stage as her entitlement will be assessed under the qualifying conditions pertaining at that time.