I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018 before us. I thank Ms Justice Mary Laffoy and everyone involved in the Citizens’ Assembly, the members of the Oireachtas joint committee and all those who gave their testimonies to both processes. It has not been an easy task, and I have the utmost admiration for all our colleagues involved who went into these processes open-minded and listened to the medical and legal evidence and personal stories of people affected by the eighth amendment. When the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, announced that there would be a Citizens’ Assembly to examine the eighth amendment and then an Oireachtas committee to review the proposals of the assembly, many of us believed it was can-kicking exercise. However, the process has in fact turned out to be very informative and helpful for many citizens, including Deputies and Senators. Prior to the general election of 2016, I pledged to support repeal of the eighth amendment, Article 40.3.3°, and I will support the Bill.
In February of this year, Deputy Broughan questioned then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny on the Age Action report ‘Towards a Fair State Pension for Women Pensioners’ by Maureen Bassett MSc which examined the changes to the State Contributory Pension introduced in Budget 2012. At that time, the PRSI Contribution bands were expanded from four to six and these changes have negatively impacted tens of thousands of pensioners since September 2012. Almost two-thirds of those losing money each week (approximately between €19 and €30 per week) are women meaning that those who took time out of the workforce to raise their children are being disproportionately penalised.
I asked the Taoiseach about this earlier but I still find the answers supplied to my colleague, Deputy Boyd Barrett, a bit dispiriting. The 43,000 pensioners referenced will still be at a loss as the months and years go on. Has the Minister made any attempt to begin costing and ensuring we can have a gender-proofed universal pensions with a move to a system of caring credits?
On Thursday the 9th of February 2017, the Age Action report ‘Towards a Fair State Pension for Women Pensioners’ by Maureen Bassett MSc was published. This piece of work was commissioned specifically by Age Action to examine the changes to the State Contributory Pension which were introduced in Budget 2012. Deputy Broughan chose to highlight these changes during his Leaders’ Questions today and called upon the Taoiseach to ensure that these unfair changes are reversed in Budget 2018 and that restored payments are backdated in full to the 36,000 plus pensioners currently receiving lower weekly pension payments.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak briefly to this important motion on pension equality and fairness. I commend my Sinn Féin colleagues for raising the matter in the House. It is one I have raised many times as it affects a great many of my constituents in Dublin Bay North, especially women. It has been brought to my attention consistently during the years.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the number of recipients of the one-parent family payment who have transitioned to jobseeker’s payment since the beginning of July 2015; the number of these who are in receipt of family income supplement or the back-to-work family dividend; and if she will make a statement on the matter.