Thursday, 8 February 2024
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
229. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection what progress has been made to realise recommendation 41.2 of Young Ireland: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (0-24) 2023-2028 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5795/24]
231. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if foster carers will be included in the access to the State pension (contributary) measures (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5794/24]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 and 231 together.
Matters related to foster caring, including any criteria relating to work, are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and for Tusla.
This Government acknowledges the important role that carers, including Foster carers, play and is fully committed to supporting them in that role. Accordingly, the current State Pension (Contributory) system provides measures including PRSI credits, Homemaking Disregards and HomeCaring Periods to recognise caring periods of up to 20 years outside of paid employment in the calculation of a payment rate. Foster carers are entitled to the benefits of the Homemaker’s Scheme or HomeCaring Periods and will qualify if the carer is in receipt of Child Benefit. If the foster carer is not in receipt of Child Benefit, they can still qualify for Homemaker’s Scheme or HomeCaring Periods provided the caring periods are confirmed by Tusla.
Despite these measures, some long-term carers of incapacitated dependents may still face barriers in accessing the State Pension (Contributory). They may for example have difficulty establishing the minimum number of 10 years' paid contributions.
I announced a series of landmark reforms to the State Pension system in September 2022 in response to the Pensions Commission’s recommendations.
An important reform agreed by Government is enhanced State Pension provision for people who have been caring for incapacitated dependents for over 20 years. It will do this by attributing the equivalent of a paid contribution to long-term carers to cover gaps in their contribution record. Foster Carers who have cared for an incapacitated dependent or dependents for over 20 years will also benefit from this important change.
I was very pleased that the legislation to give effect to these measures was enacted in December and the scheme came into operation on 1st January 2024.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.