Saturday 19 August 2017

State should 'claw back' money to top up pensions

Elderly with assets could lose up to €200 a week under plan

'A professor of social policy at UCD suggested a Fair Deal-type pension top-up scheme that would 'claw back' up to €200 a week from elderly property owners with assets of around €200,000' Stock photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
'A professor of social policy at UCD suggested a Fair Deal-type pension top-up scheme that would 'claw back' up to €200 a week from elderly property owners with assets of around €200,000' Stock photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Laura Lynott

A radical plan to delve into property assets to ease a future pension crisis has been outlined at the Citizens' Assembly.

A professor of social policy at UCD suggested a Fair Deal-type pension top-up scheme that would "claw back" up to €200 a week from elderly property owners with assets of around €200,000.

Dr Micheal Collins outlined his plan at yesterday's meeting at The Grand Hotel, Malahide, to discuss the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population.

He said: "Ireland is unique to the scale of home ownership. It's how we keep our wealth. And as Irish homeowners, it seems to me a bit mad that if people die and leave huge amounts after them, relative to their standard of living up to their death, it's passed to another generation and the past 10 to 15 years of their life their wealth in that [property] is of no value to them.

"We shouldn't look past the fact there's a big bank of wealth there. If there's potential to tap into that, to use some of the resources, get back some of their savings, their estate will be smaller, the inheritance tax might be better."

The assembly, which continues today, also heard that people in their late 40s were already victims of discrimination in the workforce, as calls were made to allow workers to continue careers into old age.

Justin Moran, head of advocacy at Age Action, said the majority of people receiving Jobseekers' Allowance now were those forced to retire from their jobs but who were not yet of State pension age.

"You can go on Jobseekers' benefit until you get the State pension but you're losing €50 a week," Mr Moran said.

"In 2021, when the pension age rises to 67, it will get even more difficult. That 65-year-old [currently] doesn't have to be on the dole, they can get a job with Facebook or Google but it doesn't work like that.

"Age discrimination kicks in in the late 40s and there are more 65-year-olds on Jobseekers than any age in this country because of the mandatory retirement clause."

Emily Logan, chief commissioner for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said it was a key human right in "maintaining dignity" to allow older people access to social welfare.

She said the case of Michael and Katherine Devereux had illustrated the need to assure older people are afforded such human rights.

Mr and Mrs Devereux were initially separated under the Fair Deal Scheme but were united after an extensive campaign in the media led by their family.

"This was an act of inhumanity as the Taoiseach described," Ms Logan told the assembly.

"It's possible to consider individual cases to provide a more humane approach."

Mary Murphy, from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said some people were experiencing "double discrimination" in the workforce when reaching pension age and that it was vital this was prevented.

She added that around 80pc of the €2.4bn State pension pot "goes to top earners and there's a male bias in that, too. You have to have the full information if we are taking the human rights and equality model to pensioners".

Sunday Independent

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