Burton does U-turn on widow's pension changes
SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton has halved the amount of time a person will have to work to qualify for the widow's pension under Budget changes.
Up to last week it was sufficient to have worked and paid PRSI for three years to get a widow's pension.
But the minister proposed that people would need to have worked and made pay related social insurance (PRSI) contributions for 10 years to get a widow's, widower's or civil partner's pension.
This amounts to 520 PRSI contributions. The new rules are due to come into effect in 2013.
Now Ms Burton has performed a partial U-turn and eased back on the planned rule change, meaning the person will only need to have made PRSI contributions for five years.
It follows the Government's U-turn on changes to disability payments in the social welfare part of last week's Budget.
Consultant actuary Tony Gilhawley said that sticking to the minister's first plan would have meant that many young widows or widowers would not have been able to get a state pension.
A widow with two young children would be down around €1,000 if she did not qualify for the payment.
"This was definitely a sneaky cut as most people won't realise the loss of this benefit until they go to try and claim it," Mr Gilhawley of Technical Guidance said.
Ms Burton told the Dail she realised that it was a big move to require that people have made 10 years of PRSI contributions, up from three years previously.
But she stressed that 10 years contributions of PRSI were now also required to qualify for a state pension.
"We need to ensure that those who benefit from a pension payment such as this have made a sustained contribution over a working life, and the increase involved reflects the increase in contributions required for state pension.