Sunday 22 October 2017

'I've lost out on more than €6k...I’ll continue to lose out for the rest of my life' - Pensioner struggling to get by on weekly allowance

Patricia Cawley Photo: Paula Geraghty
Patricia Cawley Photo: Paula Geraghty
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A new report from Age Action revealed that thousands of pensioners, mainly women, are losing a large sum of money from their retirement payments due to austerity cuts.

It has been estimated that 35,000 pensioners have been hit with lower payments due to changes to State pension eligibility rules in 2012.

Close to 23,000 people, or more than six out of ten of these, are women.

On average, retired workers have lost more than €1,500 a year.

Independent.ie spoke to a pensioner who said she had been looking forward to her retirement - but now finds herself struggling to get by.

Patricia Cawley - 'Thirty euro might not sound like a lot of money to some people, but I can tell you it makes a difference for me'

With the exception of four years after I married my husband, I worked my entire life.

I started out at the age of 16 in 1963 in the civil service and then in the charity sector.

I liked working. I enjoyed making a contribution and being useful, but I was also looking forward to retirement when I would turn 65 in March 2012.

I applied for the State Pension in late 2011 and was told that I would be entitled to €225.80 which was the second highest rate at the time.

But just before I turned 65, my manager came to me and asked if I would like to stay on for another year.

Although I had been looking forward to retirement, I liked where I worked and I liked the people I worked with.

I felt I was making a genuine contribution to the community and part of me wanted to show that people my age could still make a difference so even though the salary was not much better than the pension I stayed on for another year.

Unfortunately, and unknown to be, the Government was changing the pension system.

The changes came into effect in September of 2012 and it meant that when I retired for good in March 2013 I was suddenly, and without any explanation, told I was entitled to a pension of €196 – a cut of €30 a week.

Thirty euro might not sound like a lot of money to some people but I can tell you it makes a difference for me. It’s more than fifteen hundred euro a year.

I added it up recently and since the changes were introduced I have lost out on more than €6,000. I’ll continue to lose out for the rest of my life.

The really frustrating thing is that if I had not stayed working, I would have got a better pension. I was punished by the Government for working.

If I had known that for the rest of my life I would be losing €30 a week I would have retired in 2012 but this mean and sneaky cut was brought in without any effort being made to tell people like me who would be affected by it.

I asked the local social welfare office if they could help and I got very little sympathy. I appealed and I was told there was nothing that they could do. The Department told me that the changes were to make the pension ‘sustainable’ and to make the pension ‘fair’.

It didn’t seem very fair to me. It doesn’t seem a very fair way to treat thousands of pensioners who worked hard all their lives only to find that their pensions were cut when they weren’t looking.

A lot of the cuts that were brought in during the recession are now being reversed and people are getting back some of the money that they lost.

I believe we too have the right to have a mean and unfair cut to our pensions, one that was introduced very quietly, reversed and for people to have their pensions restored.

I am asking Minister Leo Varadkar and the other TDs in Leinster House to find a way to do this and to make the pension fair again.

'We need to put to bed the myth that the state pension was protected'

Justin Moran is the head of advocacy for Age Action and believes the changes to pension payments "punished women who took time out of work to care for their children."

"We need to put to bed the myth that the state pension was protected by the last government," he said.

"It was cut, drastically cut, for tens of thousands of older people, who have lost substantial sums of money as a result."

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