Monday 23 April 2018

'They've taken my money, they're not going to take my life' - woman on how State Pension anomaly affected her health

More than 40,000 pensioners, most of whom are women, have lost out due to changes to the State Pension system, which were introduced in 2012

Maureen Fahy, Joan McLoughlin and Justin Moran pictured at a meeting held by Age Action, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, Fórsa, SIPTU, Active Retirement Ireland, Pensioners for Equality
Maureen Fahy, Joan McLoughlin and Justin Moran pictured at a meeting held by Age Action, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, Fórsa, SIPTU, Active Retirement Ireland, Pensioners for Equality

Kathy Armstrong

A woman who lost thousands of euro due to a State Pension anomaly has spoken about the toll it took on her, saying "they've taken my money, they're not going to take my life."

More than 40,000 pensioners, most of whom are women, have lost out due to changes to the State Pension system, which were introduced in 2012.

Maureen Fahy, Joan McLoughlin and Justin Moran pictured at a meeting held by Age Action, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, Fórsa, SIPTU, Active Retirement Ireland, Pensioners for Equality
Maureen Fahy, Joan McLoughlin and Justin Moran pictured at a meeting held by Age Action, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, Fórsa, SIPTU, Active Retirement Ireland, Pensioners for Equality

State pensions are now calculated using your average contributions, so those who took time out for reasons such as raising children or caring for sick relatives are missing out.

Employment and Social Affairs Minister Regina Doherty is set to bring proposals to the Cabinet committee on pensions tomorrow on tackling the issue.

A meeting was held today by Age Action, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, Fórsa, SIPTU, Active Retirement Ireland, Pensioners for Equality and a number of individuals affected by the changes.

Joan McLoughlin, who is from Naas in Co Kildare, has said she is losing out on €80 per week and receives a pension of €155 weekly.

She told Independent.ie she was "furious" when she learned of the changes to the administration of pension payments.

After Joan finished secondary school she worked in the civil service but was forced to leave her job in 1972 due to their then-ban on employing married women, she then worked on her father's farm, raised three children and started her own business in the 1990s running farmhouse accommodation.

Joan.jpg
Joan McLoughlin

Joan, who is a member of Pensioners for Equality, said "There is the shock of hearing that instead of being on a full pension you will be on a reduced pension from November 2012 for the rest of your life."

"When I first found out I was absolutely furious, I couldn't believe it and then as they did the checks they basically said that's what it's going to be and to suck it up.

"It really affected my thought process at first but I thought they've taken my money, they're not going to take my life.

"I had to learn to separate myself mentally from it, I knew I had to help get a group together and fight it that way, rather than be at home by myself moaning and annoying myself.

"Politicians listen and they're very sympathetic but that doesn't pay the bills."

Joan is still running her business but said that others are really struggling to get by.

"I am fortunate that I am in good health and I'm still able to work but there are people who aren't so lucky and we are here to fight for those who might not be able to get out of bed or leave the house," she said.

"They are trying to survive on that little money and it's an absolute scandal, there is no other name for it, it's totally unjust.

She continued to say that the Government needs to be wary of the so-called 'Grey vote' if they do not fix the problem.

Joan said: "Thirty years of contributions should count for something but apparently it means nothing.

"It shouldn't be a mistake to return to work after a break, I run farmhouse accommodation and I'm proud of it and it brings money into the area, that shouldn't be penalised.

"If the politicians don't fix this this time they will pay for it because we have been moaning for years, everybody knows about it and we all vote, our age group votes and that's something that can't be forgotten about."

Paddy.jpg
Paddy Quinn

Another person whose wallet has been directly hit by the changes is Paddy Quinn, who is the Senior Vice-President of Forsa, the recently amalgamated union of IMPACT, the CPSU and PSEU.

Paddy said that despite working for more than 50 years, when he retired in September he found out his pension would be reduced as he tried to set up his own business in the 1980s.

He explained: "In spite of the fact that I worked for around 52 years, when I retired last September I was put on the reduced pension.

"This is because when I was made redundant during the recession in the 1980s, I attempted to set up a business of my own and so I wasn't making a contribution for six or seven years, I now find myself on a reduced contributory pension of €233.60 per week, instead of €238.

"After working all of your life it is a real kick in the teeth to see what you're getting.

"It might not sound like much less but it all makes a difference when you are living on it."

He said that he was shocked when he saw how much he was entitled to under the new system and stressed that men have also been impacted by the changes.

"I'd no warning about this, my understanding had been that if you had made a minimum of 48 contributions over the past 20 years then you'd receive a full contributory old age pension but that changed in 2012 and it was averaged out over your working lifetime.

"It's very disappointing because you assume that the State will take care of its people equally and that's just not the case now.

"The main people affected by this are women who left their jobs to maybe raise families or care for a sick relative but I am personally aware of six men who have been affected the same way that I have and are suffering the same way that I have," Paddy said.

Today's meeting was attended by a number of TDs including Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, Fianna Fail's Anne Rabbitte, Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy and Independent TDs Michael and Danny Healy-Rae, who all spoke about their desire to have the situation rectified.

A protest calling for pension equality will take place outside of the Dail tomorrow at 12.30pm.

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