Written answers

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Widow's Pension

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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267. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner (contributory) pension will be adjusted to make long-term partners eligible to receive the payment. [38872/21]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The Widow’s, Widower’s and Surviving Civil Partner’s pension is paid to the husband, wife or surviving civil partner of a deceased person and is available to those who satisfy the necessary PRSI contribution conditions, either on their own record or on that of the deceased spouse or civil partner, provided the applicant is not cohabiting.

The legal context governing life-partnership relationships such as marriage or civil partnership is set out in various Civil Partnership, Marriage and Family Law Acts.  Entering into a marriage or civil partnership is a legal act, which confers both rights and obligations on both parties that do not exist in law between cohabiting couples.  Widows, widowers and surviving civil partners, who become bereaved, therefore, lose someone who had legal duties towards them, and the social welfare code recognises this by providing a pension to them, subject to certain conditions.

It was for these reasons that the social welfare supports for widows and widowers were extended to surviving civil partners from 1 January 2011, when the provisions of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 came into force.

Awarding widows pensions, or a similar benefit, to people who are not legally widows, widowers or surviving civil partners would involve a significant income support policy change and could also be very costly.  The basis on which a person would become entitled to such a pension, would require significant consideration and raise complex legal and administrative challenges.  Accordingly, any changes to eligibility criteria for widow's pension would need to be considered both in an overall policy and in a budgetary context.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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