Thursday 27 October 2016

Elderly get €5 rise in State pension as part of sweeping welfare increases

Anne-Marie Walsh and Eilish O'Regan

Published 12/10/2016 | 02:30

Picture posed
Picture posed

OLDER people are set for a €5-a-week boost in the State pension and a €5 cut in their prescription costs.

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Those with a full contributory pension will enjoy an increase from up to €243 to €248 a week, while those on the means-tested non-contributory pension of up to €232 will get €237.

This is the second time the pension has been increased since 2009, following a €3 increase in the last Budget.

The pension boost is part of a package of across-the-board social welfare hikes that are the centrepiece of the Department of Social Protection's €301m budget for next year.

All weekly social welfare payments will rise by €5 for benefit recipients including pensioners, carers, the blind, widows, the disabled, lone parents, jobseekers and people on Community Employment schemes.

In addition, maternity and paternity benefit will rise by €5 from €230 to €235.

Fianna Fáil pushed for the pension increase to begin earlier in the new year at eleventh-hour talks, after Fine Gael sought a start date in June.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar (right) denied he tried to get one up on Fianna Fáil by giving OAPs the hike.

He insisted he wanted it to come into force from January 1, but the Government could not afford the extra €90m it would cost.

He revealed that the Government only decided that the pension increase would begin in March yesterday morning. He said the improved payment for 400,000 pensioners is among across-the-board increases that will signal the end of the recession in many welfare recipients' minds.

"My priority has never been to get one over on anyone else," he said. "It [the pension increase] was in our manifesto as well as Fianna Fáil's."

He said the parties came quickly to the conclusion that they could not have another increase for pensioners and "once again" do nothing at all for other groups.

During discussions, he said it was debated that some groups might get €5 and others €4, that some could be paid in January and some in June, or jobseekers left out.

"I would have much preferred if it was from January 1, I definitely would have, but it would have cost another €90m and turned a €300m package into a €400m package."

He said the start date for the increases will be given in the Social Welfare Bill, but insisted all payments will rise in March.

Age Action said the fact that the increase will not start until March is a disappointment.

Head of Advocacy Justin Moran said: "We welcome today's €5 increase as the first step in delivering on that commitment to Ireland's half-a-million pensioners.

"While the pension increase is welcome, delaying it to the start of March is going to disappoint many older people who will lose out during some of the coldest months of the year. A two-month delay means a loss of €40 to someone struggling to keep their home warm or to pay for medicine."

Meanwhile, Labour TD and Spokesperson on Social Protection Willie Penrose said the figures don't add up for pensioners.

He added: "When you add up the figures announced in the Budget it's clear that pensioners have been sold a pup. Fianna Fáil called last year's increase an insult. They should let us know whether a smaller increase is also an insult?"

Irish Independent

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