Regina Doherty U-turn on pension guarantee

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has been forced into a U-turn on her “guarantee” to deal with the 2012 pensions anomaly, which has seen 42,000 people lose as much as €1,500 a year.

Last week, Ms Doherty made it clear she would bring a memorandum to the Cabinet today to deal with the “bonkers” cut to the pensions.

Yet at that stage, senior Department of Finance figures close to minister Paschal Donohoe voiced concerns as to that guarantee and urged caution over her comments.

It now appears Mr Donohoe and his officials have held sway; Ms Doherty was forced to admit yesterday it will well into next year before a solution is found, as there is no money for it now.

“We recognise there is an anomaly and we’re going to fix it,” she said.

“At the very earliest it will be probably in next year’s budget negotiations that the money will be or could be found. I am just one person, it is the minister for finance who makes the ultimate decision.”

She confirmed that the 2017 Welfare Bill, which will go before the Dail this week, will not have any measure included in it to address the 2012 anomaly.

Changes introduced in 2012 which altered how a person’s state pension is calculated have seen women who took time out of work to raise families particularly disadvantaged.

The Government has pledged to address the issue but no solution has yet been decided on, Ms Doherty said.

“The only commitment that we did give is that we recognise that it is something that affects currently 42,000 men and women and we are going to try and fix it,” she told Newstalk.

Ms O’Doherty said that the home carers credit would not be extended to everyone. She also confirmed that changes to pension bands in 2012 would not be reversed.

“I will be putting proposals to Cabinet on how best to fix the anomaly without creating another,” she said.

A report is being compiled by officials in her department looking at solutions to address the problem.

“What we are going to try and fix in the medium term is those women and men who were particularly disenfranchised because of the length of their working life in working out their average contributions... meaning that they got less of a pension than people who worked for a shorter period of time,” said Ms Doherty.

“The how is probably much easier than finding the money.”

Meanwhile, public servants are escaping new pension rules that delay the payment of the state pension.

The state contributory pension is now only paid from the age of 66, meaning that thousands of people who are compelled to leave work at the age of 65 have to claim jobseekers’ benefit — getting almost €50 a week less than they would from their pension.

The Department of Public Expenditure has confirmed that the “supplementary” pension exists, that is basically a substitution for the state pension until public servants reach the state pension age of 66.

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