Tuesday, 22 March 1994
Dáil Éireann Debate
115. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare the way in which people who retire early from employment in order to do recognised voluntary work and who are not in receipt of any social welfare payment can be given credit stamps to protect their future entitlements; and if this can be provided free, or for a nominal annual sum.
Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): People who retire early from employment or self-employment and who are under 66 years of age may continue to maintain their social insurance contribution records through the award of credited contributions for periods of certified incapacity or proven unemployment. In order to get credited contributions in this way, they must either submit medical evidence of incapacity regularly to the Department or “sign on” at their nearest social welfare local office. Credited contributions during periods of illness or unemployment are awarded free of charge and may be granted even if there is no entitlement to a payment.
I should mention the voluntary work option which I introduced a number of years ago to encourage unemployed people to get involved in voluntary work so as to develop their skills and also benefit their community. This option allows people who are getting unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance to engage in voluntary work without interfering with their weekly unemployment payment. An explanatory leaflet is enclosed with this reply for the Deputy's information.
Alternatively, a person who does not qualify for UB credited contributions by virtue of receiving disability benefit or unemployment payments may pay voluntary PRSI contributions provided that they have worked and paid PRSI for at least 156 weeks and apply within a prescribed time. The voluntary contribution rate of 6.6 per cent of earnings, up to a maximum of £20,000, gives cover for retirement pension, old age (contributory) pension, widow's and orphan's (contributory) pensions, deserted wife's benefit and death grant. The lower rate of 2.6 per cent gives cover for widow's and orphan's (contributory) pension and deserted wife's benefit only and is applicable to people who were formerly covered for PRSI at the modified rate by virtue of their employment. Where a person's income is less than £4,750, the annual amount of voluntary contribution payable is £313.50 — higher rate — or £123.50 — lower rate. The annual rate of voluntary contribution payable by a self-employed  person who ceases to be compulsorily insured is £250.
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