Wednesday 19 June 2019

Even more pensioners denied top-ups over 'bonkers' anomaly


‘Fair response’: Minister Regina Doherty has come under fire. Photo: Paul Sherwood
‘Fair response’: Minister Regina Doherty has come under fire. Photo: Paul Sherwood
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The proportion of pensioners being told they do not qualify for top-ups under the review of a "bonkers" pension anomaly is growing.

The Government has been accused of failing to resolve the situation that has left tens of thousands of people with reduced pensions.

Just 15pc of the 11,226 pensioners whose cases were reviewed over the past two weeks will gain top-ups.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty was forced to defend the approach taken, as it was revealed that half of pensioners whose cases had been reviewed got no payment boost.

Now the proportion missing out stands even higher, at 57pc, the latest figures have shown.

The Government's approach has been branded a "failure" by Orla O'Connor, director of the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI).

She said the numbers qualifying for top-ups showed the Government was only "tinkering" with the system. Its efforts were "not making that significant difference to women in terms of being eligible for pensions," she said.

Ms Doherty's spokesman has insisted the review is a "comprehensive and incredibly fair response" to a "historic unfairness".

The anomaly, which has been described by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe as "bonkers", sees pensioners, particularly women, penalised by €35 a week because they have taken time out of the workforce at some stage in their career.

The 2012 changes to pension bands led to older people losing out on full contributory pensions because they left jobs to raise families or become carers.

It also affected women who were subjected to the State's marriage bar - which was only scrapped in 1973.

The anomaly affects people born after September 1, 1946. A home-caring credit was introduced to help those who were not making pension contributions for up to 20 years to get pension increases - but many were out of the workforce for longer than that.

As of May 23, there were 47,753 cases reviewed and just under half of those got some level of pension increase.

That led Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea to challenge Ms Doherty in the Dáil on whether she thought the rate of top-ups being granted was acceptable.

The latest figures provided to the Irish Independent has shown that the proportion of pensioners denied extra payments has grown.

The Department of Social Protection numbers show that of the 58,979 review decisions that have been made, 33,738 have received no increases, a rate of just over 57pc.

In total, since the review began, 25,241 pensioners have received top-ups.

Ms Doherty's spokesman said: "Nobody has lost out as a result of this process and thousands have benefited."

Irish Independent

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