Written answers

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Pension Provisions

Photo of James LawlessJames Lawless (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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326. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the means test for non-contributory pensions was introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49426/21]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The original Old Age Non-Contributory pension was first introduced in Ireland in 1908 via the passing of the Non-contributory Old-Age Pensions Act in Parliament covering the United Kingdom & Ireland. Payment was made, subject to a means test, to those people over the then State Pension Age of 70.

There has thus always been an element of means testing for an old age pension in Ireland. When the Old Age Contributory Pension was introduced in 1961, the Old Age Non-Contributory Pension continued to be paid to those who qualified through lack of means. In 2006 the Old Age Non-Contributory Pension was renamed the State Pension (Non-Contributory) which continues to this day.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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327. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will increase the old age pension in Budget 2022 in view of the rising cost of living and the pressure that the costs are putting pensioners under; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49427/21]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy will be aware that I have been considering a range of options for Budget 2022 including increases in weekly rates of payment to all Social Welfare recipients, including those in receipt of pensions.

Details of the 2022 Budget package will be announced by the Minister for Finance today.

It is, I believe, important to emphasise that the Government takes a range of data, not just price data, into account in formulating its budget. For example, the last two Budgets have, in fact, seen a series of evidence-based increases in some social welfare payments targeted to improve the situation of the people who are most at risk of poverty and to ensure the most vulnerable were protected.

While core rates for pensioners remained unchanged in Budgets 2020 and 2021, measures were introduced which sought to protect some of the most vulnerable groups, including many pensioners.

In recognition of research which indicates that those who are aged 65 years and over are more likely to be at risk of poverty, deprivation and consistent poverty if they live alone, the Living Alone Allowance was increased by €10 per week over the course of Budgets 2020 and 2021. This brought the rate from €9 to €19 per week.

To take account of increased costs arising as a result of increases to the carbon tax, the Fuel Allowance was increased by €2 per week in Budget 2020 and a further €3.50 per week in Budget 2021. This raised the weekly rate of payment from €22.50 in 2019 to €28 currently.

As a result of these targeted measures, some of the most vulnerable social welfare recipients have already seen increases significantly above the rate of inflation over this period. For example, during the fuel season, a pensioner or person with a disability living alone is up to €15.50 per week better off. In addition, on a once-off basis in 2020, the fuel season was extended by four weeks, in recognition of the fact that many people were spending more time at home due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

In considering options for the forthcoming Social Welfare Budget package, I will once again take careful account of evidence-based research produced by organisations such as the CSO, the ERSI and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice. Taking an evidence-based approach ensures that available resources are used to deliver maximum impact in terms of reducing poverty and disadvantage.

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