Dáil Éireann - Volume 526 - 21 November, 2000
Written Answers. - Pension Provisions.
Mr. O'Shea Mr. O'Shea
343. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the plans he has to introduce a pension scheme for farmers' wives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26754/00]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Entitlement to the old age contributory pension is conditional on a person satisfying a number of social insurance contribution conditions in their own right.
There are no special provisions under the PRSI system in relation to women engaged in agriculture or women generally. The existing provisions apply equally to all categories of self-employed traders whose spouses work or assist in the family business.
The PRSI status of women engaged in farming was considered by the advisory committee on the role of women in agriculture, which was established by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. My Department was represented on this committee. Its report, published in September 2000, recommended that action be taken now to ensure that both farming spouses have the option of gaining individual access to PRSI entitlements. Given the complexity of the issues, the committee recommended that a working group with legal, financial and technical expertise be established to further consider the development of models which will afford women engaged in farming financial recognition for their input into farming. It is also recommended that the working group should comprise representatives of relevant Government Departments, including my Department, the social partners and women from the farming sector.
The establishment of the technical group is primarily a matter for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and I understand that this matter will be progressed in the near future. Detailed consideration will be given to the findings when these become available. In addition, it will be necessary to consider any proposed changes to the existing arrangements for farm spouses in the wider context of the existing PRSI arrangements for other spouses who participate in non-farming family businesses.
Mr. O'Shea Mr. O'Shea
344. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the plans he has to allow people who have worked in insurable employment for 40 unbroken years to qualify for retirement pension at that stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26755/00]
Mr. Aylward Mr. Aylward
 345. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the progress to date on the review of eligibility conditions for contributory old age pensions undertaken by his Department; and when it is likely a report on this review will be available. [26760/00]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 344 and 345 together.
In August I launched a report on phase 1 of the review of the qualifying conditions for the old age contributory and retirement pensions which was undertaken by my Department. This report identified the key issues in relation to qualification conditions. It also sets out suggested guiding principles and outlines a framework for reform.
In anticipation of the proposals in the review, improvements were introduced in budget 2000 in relation to two of the recommendations, that is further recognition of pre-1953 contributions and rationalising the old age contributory and retirement pensions rate band structure. Some 38,000 pensioners saw their position improved as a result of the latter and, to date, almost 2,600 new pensions have been awarded as a result of the further recognition now being afforded to pre-1953 contributions.
Other proposals in the report include replacing the current average contributions test with one which will involve an assessment based on the total number of contributions paid or credited over a person's working life. These will be examined in detail in the second phase of the review which will commence in the next few months.
The old age contributory pension – OACP – becomes payable at age 66 while retirement pension – RP – is payable to those who retire at age 65. Allowing those who have worked in insurable employment for 40 years to qualify for RP would in many cases reduce the qualifying age for pension significantly and would have significant cost implications. Issues in relation to qualification conditions will be examined further in phase 2 of the review.
Question No. 346 taken with Question No. 333.
Dáil Éireann 526 Written Answers. Pension Provisions.