Pension changes announced last week will benefit many in Laois, according to Laois TD Charlie Flanagan but his Fianna Fáil counterpart Sean Fleming says the 'u-turn' did not go far enough.
Minister Flanagan said Laois homemakers and carers will benefit from “significant improvements” to pensions.
The Minister said the new Total Contributions Approach will calculate pensions based on all contributions made over a working career. There will also be provision for a new Home Caring Credit of up to 20 years to assist workers who took time out to raise families.
He said that due to a annual averaging system 42,000 people, mainly women, who took time out from work sometimes forced, are missing out on up to €35 per week in their State pension due to the 2012 changes. The changes will not see lost income payed to pensioners.
“In recent months, many people expressed concern to me about their pension rates, which were affected by rate band changes in 2012. I have been in constant communication with my colleague, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty on this issue, highlighting the concerns of my constituents.
“The Government has been working to find a solution to this issue and the Government has agreed to allow post 2012 pensioners to choose between their current rate and that to be introduced under the Total Contributions Approach.
“This approach is expected to significantly benefit many people here in Laois particularly women, whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, while raising families or in a caring role,” he said.
Minister Flanagan said the Department will invite over 40,000 pensioners, currently assessed under the 2012 rate band changes, to have their pensions recalculated under TCA to determine if they qualify for a higher rate of entitlement.
Deputy Sean Fleming welcomed some of the changes but said it ruled out reversing the changes introduced in 2012 which would have cost in the region of €70m. He said the Total Contributions Approach (TCA) and the introduction of a new Home Caring credit which is expected to cost in the region of €40 million is questionable at best.
“What Minister Doherty has put forward is far from a complete solution. While the changes announced will rectify some of the grievances many women have, they will be of little benefit to men who were affected by the 2012 rule changes. Approximately 40% of those impacted by the reduced band rates in 2012 are men and I am concerned that they will not benefit from the new Home Caring credit.
“The plans to put in place a Total Contributions Approach for all new pensioners from 2020 is very problematic based on the Ministers announcement as it will result in people who were due to get their pension from 1st January 2018 may have major cuts to their expected pension unless the Minister makes dramatic changes to her announcement.
“While the proposals are good for some people aged over 66 it could create serious problems for those aged 64 and below who are due to get their pensions in 2020,” said Deputy Fleming.
he Minister must amend her approach to this particular group.