This change in qualification for the Old Age pension (State Pension) is only one of many changes that are taking place over successive government budgets for the past number of years. These changes are seldom highlighted when the Minister for Finance is delivering his/her budget, but the changes can be found in the small print buried within the following Finance Act to give effect to the changes. It all part of the indignity of getting old, all part of how successive governments have been treating those of us who have crossed the “magic” threshold of 65 or 66 years of age. Contrast that with members of the Oireachtas exempting themselves from various aspects of pension qualifications. Ask yourself the question why is there a need for this group to exempt themselves from the provisions of any aspect of State Pension qualification ?
MANY people must retire from work aged 65. But at the moment, they do not qualify for the old age pension until they are 66. Up to two years ago, they would have got a pre-retirement payment but this was abolished in 2014. Nowadays, people in that situation must sign on for Jobseeker’s Benefit, like all other people who are out of work. That situation appears to defy common sense. Today in this newspaper, we reveal that while a small and relatively constant number of people aged 60 to 64 sign on for Jobseeker’s Benefit, there is a five-fold increase when the number aged 65-66 is assessed. Next year, the pension age increases to 67 and in 2028 it will further rise to 68. Currently, the Jobseeker’s Benefit of €188 per week only lasts for 50 weeks, just short of a full year. One wonders what will happen when the gap between retirement age and pension qualification lengthens. Let’s not forget that many people in the latter part of their 60s often have sizeable financial obligations, just like every other citizen. There are real practical issues here about keeping body and soul together for older workers and their dependants. But there is also a fundamental issue around the need to respect people who have given a working life to society. Allowing them to fall through the cracks of the welfare system is simply not good enough.It is an insult to our older citizens and their families. It also diminishes the rest of us, old and young, by creating a societal image which is uncaring and cavalier. The excellent campaign group for older people, Age Action Ireland, has today called for a change in the rules. It has also urged a rethink on whether people should be forced to retire at age 65.