Tuesday, 13 May 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
456. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will review her policy on the treatment of widows who have made substantial social insurance contributions and who qualify for an old age contributory pension in their own right, but who are afforded the same entitlement on the death of their spouse as widows who have made substantially fewer or no contributions, as in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; if she will bring forward amendments to the next Social Welfare Bill to recognise the work and social insurance contributions of such widows; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12667/03]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): The conditions of entitlement to payment on the death of a spouse are provided for in social welfare legislation. Under these rules a person can qualify for widow's contributory pension on the basis of 156 PRSI contributions paid and an average of 39 paid or credited over the previous three or five years. These relatively favourable conditions for entitlement to pension have applied for many years and I have no plans to change them. Furthermore, whereas the practice in relation to survivor's pensions generally is that entitlement depends on the contribution record of the deceased spouse and not of the survivor, the conditions here can be fulfilled on the insurance record of the survivor herself or the deceased spouse.
Entitlement to old age contributory pension depends on the claimants contribution record and the same rules of entitlement apply in all cases. A person in employment can accumulate the necessary contributions for an old age contributory pension over a long period whereas this is not necessarily the case for widow's pension. The qualifying conditions for a widow's or widowers contributory pension are, therefore, more flexible. With increased social insurance coverage and improved participation of women in the paid labour force, I anticipate that in the future more women will qualify for pensions in their own right. I am satisfied that the current arrangements are reasonable in the circumstances.
457. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if inspectors will investigate the circumstances of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in relation to a widows non-contributory pension; and if this person can qualify for a partial pension. [12695/03]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): The person concerned is not entitled to a widow's non-contributory pension as she has failed to substantiate the disposal of significant capital arising from the sale of her farm and dwelling. Should she be in a position to provide the necessary proof of disposal of her capital, her entitlement to the pension will be reviewed.
Under the relevant legislation, decisions in this regard are matters for deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.
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