Wednesday 21 February 2018

Groups urge Dáil to reverse 'unfair' cuts to pensions

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he did not have the
financial resources to address the issue. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he did not have the financial resources to address the issue. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Three groups have come together to call for the Dáil to this week vote to reverse cuts to State pensions that mainly affect women.

The National Women's Council, Age Action and the Irish Countrywomen's Association want TDs to overturn the cuts implemented in 2011.

It emerged the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has repeatedly warned the Government that people were suffering from the rule change.

The Dáil is due to debate the issue during private members' business tomorrow.

The Government has come under intense pressure for not using last week's Budget to address the pension anomaly, which sees retired women who stayed home to raise a family receive as much as €50 less than those on full State pension.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe called pension rules penalising women for leaving the workforce to care for children "bonkers".

But said he did not have the financial resources to address the issue. Now director of the National Women's Council Orla O'Connor says a gender pension gap of 37pc has been caused by the fact that women have considerably less access to State pensions than men.

"Changes to pension contribution bands in 2012 made it harder for women to qualify for a State pension, compounding the situation," she said.

Tens of thousands of women get smaller pensions, or sometimes no pension at all, simply because they took time out of the workforce to care for their children, and this is unacceptable, Ms O'Connor added.

Since Budget 2018 last week, the National Women's Council has been inundated with calls from women on the issue, Ms O'Connor said.

National president of the Irish Countrywomen's Association Marie O'Toole said her organisation has received more than 5,000 signatures on a petition collected by guild members from across Ireland.

"They are urging the Government to address this pension anomaly and to do it sooner rather than later," she said.

The most recent figures show that 42,500 people received a reduced rate pension as a result of the rate band calculation changes implemented in 2012. Some 26,350 of these women.

Changes made by then social protection minister Joan Burton in the previous government make it more difficult to qualify for a full pension.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet is today set to discuss the Government's approach to a Fianna Fáil motion on the inequality in the pensions system brought about by the 2012 cuts.

Irish Independent

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