Dáil Éireann - Volume 532 - 20 March, 2001

Written Answers. - Pension Provisions.

461. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will consider relaxing the requirement under which an annual average of 48 stamps per year over an individual's entire working life is needed to qualify for the full rate of contributory pension. [7550/01]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): To qualify for an old age contributory pension a person must satisfy a number of basic conditions as follows: enter social insurance before age 56, for the old age, contributory, pension, and age 55, for the retirement pension; and have a minimum of 156 full rate contributions paid 260 if the yearly average is less than 20. This requirement for all contributors will increase to 260 and 520 paid contributions from April 2002 and April 2012, respectively; and have a yearly average of at least ten contributions paid or credited from 1953, when the unified system of social insurance came into effect or the date of entry into social insurance, if later.

A yearly average of 48 contributions is required for a full rate pension.

In August 2000 I launched the report on phase 1 of the review of the qualifying conditions for [1263] the old age, contributory, and retirement pensions. This report identified the key issues in relation to qualification conditions. It also sets out suggested guiding principles and outlines a framework for reform.

One of the recommendations involves a change in the qualifying conditions from the current one, based on average yearly contributions, to a system based on the total number of contributions paid-credited over a person's working life. This would represent a very significant change in approach for overall pensions policy.

The implementation of this proposal, including cost and operational issues, is being considered in the second phase of the review, which commenced recently. This phase of the review will, amongst other things, involve an examination of the appropriate number of contributions required for various rates of pension. I expect to receive this report later this year. Any changes to the current arrangements will be considered in the light of this report and budgetary considerations.

462. Mr. McDowell asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will have investigations made into the reason the non-contributory pension of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 was reduced; and the reasons for this reduction. [7565/01]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The person concerned was in receipt of an old age contributory pension of £164.30 per week which included a qualified adult allowance of £60.20 in respect of his spouse.

From 23 February 2001 his spouse qualified for an old age non-contributory pension in her own right at the higher personal rate of £79.50 per week.

Qualified adult allowance and old age, non-contributory, pensions are not payable concurrently in respect of the same person. The person concerned was advised of the position and the qualified adult allowance was terminated with effect from 23 February 2001 in favour of the higher weekly rate of old age non-contributory pension payable to his spouse.

The person concerned is currently in receipt of old age contributory pension at the maximum personal rate of £104 plus £8 fuel allowance per week.

Under social welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.