Written answers

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Department of Social and Family Affairs

Pension Provisions

12:00 pm

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Question 260: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will take into consideration the report by the Irish Human Rights Commission titled The Self Employed and the Old Age Contributory Pension when formulating her response to the green paper on pensions. [44408/09]

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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The case reported on by the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) involves a couple who were over 56 years of age in 1988 when compulsory social insurance for the self-employed was introduced and who, therefore could not, satisfy one of the basic requirements for pension as they did not commence paying insurance ten years before pension age. A special pension paid at half the personal rate and requiring the payment of at least 260 contributions was introduced in 1999 to cater for people in these circumstances. The IHRC recommended that a reduced benefit should also be paid to people who, because of advanced age, could not satisfy the conditions for this special pension. This would be a significant departure from the principles underpinning qualification for pensions, and other benefits, which require that a minimum level of contributions should be made before a person can qualify for a payment.

The IHRC laid particular emphasis on Article 29, paragraph 5, of the European Code of Social Security which deals with the position of people who cannot satisfy new conditions because of advanced age when these are introduced. In the context of submitting its annual report on compliance with the Code, the Department sought the view of the ILO Committee of Experts, which examines national reports on compliance with the European Code of Social Security on behalf of the Council of Europe. The final resolution on the Department's 2006/2007 compliance report from the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers found that "law and practice in Ireland continue to give full effect to the parts of the Code which have been accepted."

Earlier this year, the Department had further correspondence with the IHRC on the same issue in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The issues raised by the IHRC have been given full consideration by the Department and the IHRC has expressed its gratitude for the Department's ongoing engagement in relation to this.

Decisions on the future direction of state pensions policy, including the issue raised in the IHRC report, will be made in the context of the forthcoming national pensions framework.


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