Mum with limited PRSI stamps loses out again under new pension rules?

Q&A: Failure to pay 2012 imposed minimum of 520 stamps locks her out of pension fix

Minister for  Social Protection Regina Doherty: new pension rules will benefit women who gave up work to care for their children. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty: new pension rules will benefit women who gave up work to care for their children. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

My wife was working in the private sector and has 300 paid PRSI contributions. She has a further 102 credited PRSI contributions. She gave up work in 1981 to look after our first child. We had two further children born in 1984 and 1989 and she stayed at home to look after them also. She never subsequently went back to work.

She will turn 66 next year. Have the recent changes announced by the Minister altered her entitlement to a pension?

– Mr S.A., email

* Now this is where things get messy. Your wife has paid 300 PRSI stamps and has a further 102 credited.

Under the changes announced by the minister, she was entitled to up to 20 years’ PRSI stamps to care for children under 12. As your children were born in 1981, 1984 and 1989, that last child would have been 12 in 2001. So depending on when in 1981 the first child was born and when in 2001 the last child turned 12, she would have a full 20 years under the new Homecaring credit, or just under it.

While one is allowed up to 10 years of credited contributions, the maximum allowed for both credited and Homecaring contributions together under the Minister’s new arrangement is 20 years. So your wife would have almost 26 years of contributions by the time she retires (at 66) assuming she does not return to work between now and then – 20 years under Homecaring + credited contributions and 300 paid, which is just shy of six years.

But, it appears, she will not benefit after all. My initial advice was that the Homecaring Credits would go to meet the minimum “entry standard” on eligibility for the contributory state pension – 520 full PRSI contributions. That is not so.

I am now assured by the Department of Social Protection that you must have 520 fully paid PRSI stamps before you even start to consider homecaring / homemaker credits. With 10 years’ stamps, you don’t even get to consider any child rearing duties – or anything else

It seems quite unfair, given that the doubling of this minimum threshold to 520 in 2012 from 260 was a significant factor in locking many women out of even a reduced pension in the first place.

Your wife would have qualified for almost two-thirds of the maximum state pension under the pre-2012 system but now remains locked out.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or by email to dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

* This article was edited on Monday, February 5th

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