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Bill provides for State Pension Age to remain at 66 pending report of the Pensions Commission
Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, TD, has confirmed the publication of the Social Welfare Bill 2020, which will give legislative effect to a range of Social Welfare measures contained in Budget 2021.
Debate of the Bill, which is available here, is scheduled to commence in the Dáil on December 9th.
The Bill includes a provision to repeal the increase in the State Pension age, as committed to under the Programme for Government.
The increase in the State Pension age, previously planned to take effect on 1st January, 2021, will be deferred and will remain at 66, pending the report of the Commission on Pensions.
Commenting today, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said:
I look forward to bringing this Bill through the Oireachtas. In particular, provision is made in this Bill for the State Pension Age to remain at 66. This means that the planned increase in the State Pension Age next year to 67 and 68 in 2028 will be repealed. This fulfils a commitment in the Programme for Government ‘Our Shared Future’.
The Bill will also provide for increases in the weekly rates of welfare payments for dependent children as well as other increases for certain social welfare recipients who are living alone and those living on our offshore islands.
Among the Budget measures included in the Bill are:
- A €2,000 increase in the Widowed or Surviving Civil Partner Grant (from €6,000 to €8,000). This grant is a once-off payment designed to assist with the income support needs of a widow, widower or surviving civil partner (with dependent children) immediately following the death of their spouse or civil partner. In 2019, over 1,000 parents received this payment.
- Increases in qualified child payments. This will provide for increasing the weekly payments for dependent children under the age of 12 to €38 and €45 for those aged 12 or over. Overall, these increases will benefit some 419,000 children.
- An increase in the Living Alone Allowance. People who are receiving the Living Alone Allowance, mainly pensioners and people with disabilities, will receive an increase of €5, bringing this payment up to €19 per week. Some 221,700 people will benefit from this increase.
- Offshore Island Allowance. There are approx. 600 people living on an offshore island who currently receive an increase of €12.70 in their weekly payment. This is being increased to €20 per week, the first increase since it was introduced in 2000.
- A reduction in waiting days from six to three so that a claimant can be paid Illness Benefit or Injury Benefit from the 4th day of illness or injury. This measure will be an improvement in insurance coverage for workers, reducing the financial burden of absence from work due to illness.
- An increase of €150 in the Carer’s Support Grant, raising the payment to €1,850. Some 130,000 carers will benefit from this increase next year. The Carer’s Support Grant is an annual payment and it is paid in the first week of June.
- Increases in the Working Family Payment thresholds. This measure will increase the Working Family Payment income threshold for families (including lone parents) with up to and including three children by €10 per week.
- The removal of the One-Parent Family Payment earnings limit. Currently, when a lone parent’s earnings exceed €425 per week, they lose their remaining entitlement to One-Parent Family Payment. This change will enable lone parents to retain their One-Parent Family Payment if their income is above €425 per week and their payment will be tapered in line with the payment’s means test.
In addition, the Minister has signalled her intention to introduce regulations to formally remove the requirement for people who retire at 65 to be genuinely seeking work:
I am pleased that the Commission on Pensions will be examining the issue of mandatory retirement ages in employment contracts.
In the meantime, I do not believe it is fair to expect a person who has worked all their lives to ‘sign on’ or be expected to actively seek work at the age of 65. I have therefore signalled my intention to Government to introduce regulations which will formally remove any obligatory requirements in relation to signing-on, activation or conditionality around genuinely seeking work for people aged 65.
This will formalise an administrative practice which has been in place for some time.
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