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pension gap Retired over-65s will no longer have to sign on for the dole as new benefit introduced

The new benefit will bridge the gap until retirees can claim the State pension.

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RETIREES over the age of 65 will no longer have to sign on for the dole to bridge the gap until they can claim the State pension.

A new benefit will be announced today for thousands of retirees who fall into this bracket, although it will be €45 a week less than the pension.

Many workers have been forced to leave their job at the traditional retirement age of 65. But they were left with no option but to sign on as qualification for the State pension was raised to 66.

Now a new payment for this cohort, who were caught in the pension gap, is set to be announced by Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys. Her department has put in place the new scheme, to be called Benefit Payment for 65 Year Olds.

It is specifically for people aged between 65 and 66 years who cease employment, voluntarily or otherwise.

They will not have to "sign on" at a social welfare office to qualify for the payment, and will be free to take up an education course and still get the benefit.

Some of these people have never been unemployed in their lives and resent having to claim unemployment benefit from social welfare and present as if they were looking for work. They have been also precluded from taking up an education course if they wanted to get the dole.

The application process for the new payment is done online through a single form.

Eligibility for the payment is determined by a person's PRSI contributions, Ms Humphreys said.

The rate of payment is €203 a week, which is the same rate as Jobseeker's Benefit. There will be an increase for dependants, if eligible.

This is lower than the State transition pension which was paid from the age of 65 but was abolished in 2014 when the pension age rose to 66.

The head of social policy and employment affairs at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Dr Laura Bambrick, welcomed the new scheme.

But she questioned why it was being paid at the same value as Jobseeker's Benefit and not the State pension.

She said the difference amounts to €45 less per week, which is €2,355 for the year.

It is expected that 2,000 existing unemployment benefit recipients will qualify for the new payment immediately.

The department said it has identified people who are currently receiving a Jobseeker's Benefit payment who are eligible for this new payment and it is in the process of notifying them of the relaxation of the conditions to their claim.

Ms Humphreys said: "For many people, due to their contract of employment, retiring at the age of 65 is their only option.

"These are people who have been working all their lives and, for many, finding new employment can be difficult.

"As minister I want to be able to provide them with some certainty and peace of mind."

It was a commitment in the Programme for Government to come up with the new benefit. The State pension age emerged as a key issue in last year's general election. The pension age was due to rise to 67 last month, but the Government has held off on this.

A claim for Benefit Payment for 65-year-olds can be made at MyWelfare.ie or by emailing forms@welfare.ie, requesting a paper application, the department said.


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