Dáil Éireann - Volume 546 - 11 December, 2001
Written Answers. - Pension Provisions.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
39. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the annual rate of increase in respect of old age and other pensions from 1998 to date; the extent to which he expects increases to take place in 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31630/01]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The information requested by the Deputy is contained in a table which I propose to arrange to have circulated in the Official Report.
Pension rates for older persons have increased dramatically over the period since 1998 and this trend has continued in the recent budget. When this Government came into office in 1997 the rate of old age contributory pension stood at £78 or 99.04 per week. We promised to raise it to £100 or 127 per week by 2002. We have more than achieved this target and the £10 or 12.70 increase announced in the budget brings a pension rate of over £116 in 2002. This amounts to an increase of nearly 49% since 1998 and to a real increase of 24%.
In addition, as part of the review of the Action Programme for the Millennium, we also promised to raise the level of all social welfare pensions to a minimum of £100 or 127 per week. The £10 or 12.70 per week increase for pensioners generally provided for in budget 2002 ensures that this objective is also achieved and surpassed. From January next, all pension rates for older people are at least £105 or 133.32 per week.
The budget also provided for a special increase of £12 or 15.24 per week in the maximum rate of widow's and widower's contributory pension for those aged 66 and over. This represents real progress towards achieving the commitment made in budget 2001 to bring the level of these payments up to the same rate as the old age contributory pension.
Budget 2002 also provided for further significant increases of £10 or 12.70 per week for the qualified adults aged 66 or over of pensioners with proportionate amounts for those on reduced  payments. As a result, a pensioner couple on a full social welfare payment will get an increase of £20 or 25.40 per week.
The budget also provided for a number of other improvements which will directly benefit pensioners. These include an increase in the number of units on electricity allowance by 300 units per annum with effect from February next and the introduction of a household benefits package, thereby streamlining the electricity, telephone and TV licence schemes into one combined package. This will ensure that all recipients will receive the full range of schemes. About 13,600 households who are currently in receipt of the electricity allowance will now have automatic access to the telephone scheme; an increase in the fuel scheme from £5 or 6.35 per week to £7.09 or 9 per week.
The level of increases in weekly payments to pensioners along with the wide range of other improvements since 1998 clearly demonstrate the Government's ongoing commitment to secure the future of older persons in society.
Dáil Éireann 546 Written Answers. Pension Provisions.