All State pensions should not be equal, says Minister

Regina Doherty wants to reform welfare payments to help those ‘who are most at risk’

Regina Doherty,  Minister for Social Protection:  ‘It’s about ensuring everyone has a minimum standard of living.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Regina Doherty, Minister for Social Protection: ‘It’s about ensuring everyone has a minimum standard of living.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

It is not “fair” that some older people receive State pensions that are more than they need while others on the same amount live in poverty, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said.

Ms Doherty said she wants to reform the welfare system and bring an end to €5 top-ups on every welfare payment being announced on budget days.

She said everyone should have a basic minimum income guaranteeing that they can participate in society but that the current system was not delivering this.

The Minister said “if we are really serious about everybody enjoying the benefits of a recovering economy, well then we need to look at those who are most at risk of poverty and the people in consistent poverty as opposed to just doing a little bit for everybody”.

The same payments for similar households in different parts of Ireland may not be appropriate, she said, adding that political and public “buy in” would be needed to explain to the “lady in Donegal” why she was going to get “more, or less” than “the lady somewhere else” in the State.

“So a long conversation will be needed,” she said, adding that the changes would not be achieved in one budget cycle.

Ms Doherty said that despite a recovering economy and increases in welfare payments, 120,000 children still lived in consistent poverty, while some welfare recipients were getting more than they needed, including pensioner couples in urban areas.

“It’s not just about the rates. It’s about ensuring everyone has a minimum standard of living. What we have at the moment is people being left behind because we’re quite happy to leave everybody the same and everyone is not the same.”