Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea has warned of a pension bombshell facing thousands of people on state contributory pensions. Deputy O’Dea said the changes, which were announced in the budget and came into effect from this month, unfairly target women who left the workplace to raise their families.
Under new criteria people with the minimum of 10 PRSI contributions a year will see their pension drop to €92 a week, down from the current minimum of €115.20 a week. The changes will affect people with less than 48 contributions a year on average. In many cases, people could be hit with an unexpected cut of €1,500 over the course of their pension.
“This is an underhand cut to the pension entitlements of tens of thousands of people across the country,” said Deputy O’Dea.
“It will disproportionately hit widows with broken employment records after taking time out to raise their children. It could also hit people who left the workplace due to a long-term illness or illness in their family.
“There are currently 115,000 people in receipt of the widows/widowers contributory pension. As a result of the changes due to come into effect this month, the PRSI payments needed to qualify for this pension will increase by 330% for new applicants. This means that thousands of people will no longer qualify.
“Once again the Government has failed to adequately explain all of this to people. Most people have no idea that these changes are now in place and they certainly don’t know how their own pension will be affected. If this isn’t explained properly, there will be uproar when people who are due to retire soon see an unexpected cut to their pension entitlements over the next few years.
“At the very least, the Government needs to explain the new criteria in a coherent and comprehensive way. There is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding these changes and who will be affected by them. The Minister must clarify what individuals and what circumstances, if any, will be exempt from these strict new criteria. People who feel squeezed from every angle at this time need time to plan such significant changes to their incomes.”