Party calls for Government to honour 2010 commitment to ease 40-year requirement
SINN Féin is pushing for the maximum state pension PRSI contribution limit to be cut by 10 years.
It also is calling for a State Pensions Transition payment to be brought back for those retiring at 65 and the Widow’s Pension to be extended to couples who are not married.
The party wants the Government to follow a commitment made in 2010 that workers should qualify for the maximum contributory State Pension if they have worked for 30 years or more.
Currently, the limit is set at 40 years for the maximum pension.
However, those with fewer than 40 years of contributions can still qualify for high pension rates – with the cap set at 20 years for home carers; alternatively, up to 10 years of contributions can be used in calculations.
People with fewer than 2,080 contributions may still qualify for a high rate of pension because up to 1,040 Home Caring Periods (20 years) and up to 520 credited contributions (10 years) can be used as part of pension calculations.
Sinn Féin outlined its proposals in a submission to the Pensions Commission.
The Government has indicated it will sign off on major pension reforms, under which the State pension age of 66 is retained, but workers who choose to retire later will be entitled to a greater pension in five rates which are due to be introduced shortly.
“The 2010 National Pensions Framework was clear in that a total contributions requirement of 30 years’ contributions for a maximum pension will be introduced,” said Roscommon TD Claire Kerrane, Sinn Féin spokesperson for social protection, in the party’s submission.
“This commitment should be honoured.”
In the document, the party later formally recommends the 40-year contribution requirement be brought down to 30 as per the government’s pensions framework from 12 years ago.
Sinn Féin is also pushing for a transitional payment to be brought back for people who retire at 65.
As it stands, the payment is similar to Jobseeker’s Benefit but pensioners do not need to be looking for work.
However, the maximum rate of payment is €208 per week, with increases for adult dependents.
“Some of these people had never been to a social welfare office in their lives and we know from direct engagement with individuals who found themselves in this situation, they felt really let down by the system,” Ms Kerrane said.
“Sinn Féin have long called for the reintroduction of the State Pension Transition for those who wish to retire at 65 years, an end to mandatory retirement to end the practice of employers stipulating that an employee can no longer do their job once they turn a certain age (up to now, the age of 65), and also allowing for longer working lives for those who wish to work longer.”
She said while this option is “not for everyone”, retirement choices should be given to all workers.
“For those who choose to remain on at work beyond the age of 65, they should be able to continue accruing contributions towards their State Pension,” Ms Kerrane said.
The party also calls for pension rates to be linked to the “minimum essential standard of living”.
Officials in the Department of Social Protection are currently working on benchmarking pensions as well as other social welfare payments to the average industrial wage.
Sinn Féin is also encouraging the State to expand the Widow’s Pension to couples who did not get married but lived together or had a family.
Ms Kerrane writes that the need for a marriage certificate is “outdated” and “discriminates” against certain couples.
“This issue should be examined, and consideration should be given to amending the rules to at the very least allow for access to a Widow’s Pension where there are dependants,” she said.
Sinn Féin also called for family carers to receive the full State pension and for foster parents to be acknowledged in the pension system.