IRELAND - A reform combining all non-contributory payments for people over 66 into one standard and enhanced non-contributory pension scheme, under a revised means test, is expected to lift 34,000 pensioners onto higher or full pensions.
The amendment was included in the Social Welfare Law Reform and Pensions Bill 2006, unveiled today by minister for Social Affairs Seamus Brennan. It includes a range of measures to reinforce protection and extend investigative powers in the pensions arena.
Under this particular reform, the means disregard for the standard non-contributory pension is being increased from e7.60 to e20 per week.
This will mean a single person with no other means will be able to have up to e35,000 in capital and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate, the government said, a figure which rises to e70,000 in the case of a pensioner couple.
Furthermore, to allow pensioners to earn more income without having the value of their pension eroded, a special earnings disregard of e100 per week will also be introduced.
Other reforms in the bill include a special earnings disregard of e100 per week to certain persons under 66 in receipt of the Widower’s Pension.
There will also be a penalty fine alternative to summary prosecution by the Pensions Board, and new powers requiring an actuary to a pension scheme to have his or her work reviewed regularly to ensure it complies with the provisions of the Pensions Act.
Minister Brennan said it was important that those reaching pension age who wished to continue work should be encouraged to do so.
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