The State pension system should be adjusted to ensure that long-term carers no longer fall through the cracks, according to Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon.

The Dublin Central TD, who is the party’s spokesperson on Social Protection, said:

“Too many carers are falling between the cracks in our pension system, not qualifying for either the contributory or the non-contributory pension. Many of them have spent most or all of their working lives caring for a profoundly disabled child or family member. The idea that these people could be left without financial security in their old age is frankly disgraceful, and it’s time this Government delivered on its commitment to do something about it.”

Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Gannon highlighted how anomalies in the State pension system often work to deny many – mainly women – a payment in old age, even if they have spent decades in caring roles. This is usually a result of gaps in their PRSI history, or quirks in the means test, which leave carers without any pension entitlement. The Programme for Government has committed to finding a solution to this issue.

Deputy Gannon called for the 20-year limit on credited PRSI contributions for caring work to be removed, and for credited contributions to be treated the same as actual paid contributions.

He added:

“The 20-year limit is bizarre. People sometimes spend twice that long caring and that should be acknowledged. Treating paid and credited contributions differently tells these people that society doesn’t value their work as much as it values paid employment. That attitude is an anachronism in 2021 and public policy needs to reflect more modern thinking about what counts as valuable work in our society.

“At the moment, the system says people must have worked at least 10 years in the traditional workforce to get a contributory pension. But if you spend decades as a carer, 10 years often isn’t possible. I don’t think anyone believes it’s fair that these people should then be excluded by the system. The current requirement of a minimum of 520 paid PRSI contributions to get a State pension also needs to be removed.

“The best way the Government could demonstrate its commitment to caring for carers is by designing a dedicated long-term Carers’ Pension Scheme. This should target people who have delivered full-time care for more than 20 years, regardless of their PRSI history, and should pay them a pension equal to the maximum contributory pension, which is currently €248.30. Obviously, there should be no means test.

“Family Carers Ireland hears from many carers every year, mostly women, who have no individual entitlement to a pension from the State. This is despite having spent decades, or their whole working lives, doing the difficult work that is caregiving. Too often they face financial uncertainty in retirement.

“There is a need to ensure that no carer is denied a pension due to long periods spent caregiving. There is no economic or social argument that could deny people in this situation financial security in their old age. Whatever the cost of paying them a pension, it could never equal the contribution they’ve made through a lifetime of caring.”
March 31, 2021

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