Failure to address glaring inequality on pensions in Budget 2018 is indefensible - Government must face up to its responsibilities towards older women

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins launches Age Action report with Justin Moran and Maureen Bassett
Senator Alice-Mary Higgins launches Age Action report with Justin Moran and Maureen Bassett

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins seeks special debate on gender and equality aspects of Budget 2018

Senator Higgins said “The failure to address this glaring inequality on pensions in Budget 2018 is indefensible, particularly given Government promises on gender and equality proofing of the budget. I am calling on Pascal Donohoe to allocate additional funds to address this before the Finance and Social Welfare Bills pass through the Oireachtas. Senator Higgins has also called for a special Seanad debate on gender and equality aspects of Budget 2018, in particular the failure to address the glaring pension inequality within the contributory state pension system.

Senator Higgins said "The 2012 cuts to the reduced rate state pension added injury to injury to insult for thousands of those, mainly women, who were already suffering from an unfair averaging pension system – one that penalises anyone who undertook care work or were forced to give up work due to the marriage bar.  Many women, for example, had made enough contributions for a full pension, but were put on a 'reduced rate' because their contributions were not continuous - then the 'reduced rate' was cut."

"I campaigned for gender equality in our pension system for many years while working at Older and Bolder and at the National Women’s Council of Ireland. Since joining the Oireachtas Committee for Social Protection last year, I have made this a priority issue and the recent report produced by that Committee strongly recommended the reversal of these cuts and action to address the underlying flaws in our system."

“The Minister for Finance Pascal Donohue has himself acknowledged that the system is 'Bonkers' but claims it will cost too much to fix it.  "However", Senator Higgins emphasised, "not fixing the system also has a cost, and that is carried every week by the tens of thousands of older citizens, mainly women, who have money taken from their pension, sometimes up to €35 a week or €1560 a year. The Government must face up to its responsibilities."

  Senator Higgins concluded "I am asking Pascal Donohoe to allocate additional resources to address this injustice before the Finance and Social Welfare Bills pass through the Oireachtas. I have also called for a special Seanad debate on the promised gender and equality proofing of Budget 2018, highlighting this and other issues such as supports for lone parents, measures for those with a disability and investment in public services and housing.”

 

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Senator Higgins joins EPF colleagues in calling on governments to ensure sexual and reproductive rights are protected during the COVID-19 emergency

Even during a crisis, women have sexual and reproductive healthcare needs which cannot wait. Governments should be supporting access to essential SRHR services - unfortunately some are actively using this as a chance to block it. As a member of the the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, I have been pressing governments across Europe to actively support access to SHRR in their own countries and across the wider world. Last week we produced a report on ’Sexual and Reproductive Rights during the COVID-19 pandemic’ which described how many women and girls are being left without essential medical services such as contraception and abortion care, HIV and STI testing, reproductive cancer screenings, and adequate pre and post-natal healthcare.

An IPPF survey showed 5.633 community-based care clinics closing across 64 countries, with African countries being the most heavily impacted. EU member states should be giving humanitarian and health support and including SHRR. In terms of particularly time-sensitive healthcare such as abortion, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Portugal have made provisions for remote support of medical abortions, while Poland and Romania seem to be using this crisis to undermine women’s access to rights and reproductive healthcare.

Amid this crisis we have also seen a huge increase in sexual and gender-based violence, an issue that all governments must address head on.