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Income supports for older people

Information

A range of payments are made to older people by the Department of Social Protection and the Health Service Executive. If you are unsure whether or not you would qualify for a payment, you should apply anyway.

Generally payments are made up of a personal payment for yourself and extra amounts for your dependent spouse, civil partner or cohabitant and any dependent children. A cohabitant is a person living in an intimate and committed relationship with a person of the same or opposite sex who is not that person’s spouse, civil partner, or a close relative.

You should apply to the Department of Social Protection for your pension at least four months in advance.

Changes to the qualifying age for State pensions

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 made a number of changes to the qualifying age for State pensions. The qualifying age will rise to 66 in 2014 , 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. So:

  • If you were born on or after 1 January 1948 the minimum qualifying State pension age will be 66 (because the State Pension (Transition) will no longer be paid).
  • If you were born on or after 1 January 1955 the minimum qualifying State pension age will be 67.
  • If you were born on or after 1 January 1961 the minimum qualifying State pension age will be 68.

Social insurance payments

You need enough PRSI contributions to qualify for these payments. Apply to the Department of Social Protection.

State Pension (Transition)

From 1 January 2014 the State Pension (Transition) is no longer paid to new applicants. This means that there is a standard State Pension age of 66 years for everyone.

State Pension (Contributory)

The State Pension (Contributory) is payable from the age of 66. You are allowed to have income from any other source while you receive this pension, but both the income and the pension are taxable.

There are a number of pro-rata State Pensions (Contributory) which are paid at a lower rate. These were introduced to deal with issues that arose as a result of people paying different types of social insurance contributions or not paying contributions for various reasons.

Under the National Pensions Framework a number of other changes are planned to the qualifying conditions for the State Pension (Contributory) from 2020. These changes do not affect the State Pension (Non-Contributory).

Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension

You may be eligible for Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension if you are widowed or a surviving civil partner, have not remarried or entered into a new civil partnership, and are not cohabiting. You can transfer to the State Pension (Contributory) at the age of 66.

Means-tested payments

Any means you may have, such as weekly income or savings, are taken into account for these payments, but not your own home. You must also satisfy the habitual residence condition. Apply to the Department of Social Protection.

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

The State Pension (Non-Contributory) is a payment for people aged 66 or over who do not qualify for a State Pension (Contributory).

Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner's Non-Contributory Pension

If you are a widowed person or a surviving civil partner who is not entitled to a Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension, has not remarried or entered into a new civil partnership, has no dependent children and is not cohabiting, you may be eligible for a Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Non-Contributory Pension. This is a means-tested payment. At age 66 you transfer to the State Pension (Non-Contributory).

Private pensions

Occupational and personal pensions

Occupational pensions are organised by employers to provide pensions to employees on retirement or to surviving dependants on the death of an employee. Personal pensions or Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) are organised individually by self-employed people or employed people who do not have an occupational pension scheme.

You need to deal directly with the pension provider to find out exactly what benefits your pension gives you. The Pensions Authority is the regulatory body for occupational pensions and PRSAs. If you have a complaint, the Authority will advise you about your rights. The Pensions Ombudsman investigates and decides on complaints relating to occupational pensions and PRSAs. Generally, you may have income from other sources, for example, from work, if you are receiving a pension. There are some restrictions on people getting both a pension and employment income from the public sector – you should check with the pension provider.

Other social welfare payments

Apply to the Department of Social Protection for these payments.

Increase for Living Alone

The Increase for Living Alone is a supplementary payment for people in Ireland on Irish social welfare pensions who are living alone. It is also available to people under the age of 66 who get certain other payments from the Department of Social Protection.

Aged 80 increase

If you are getting an Irish social welfare pension, you automatically get an increase in your pension when you reach 80 years of age.

Increase for Living on a Specified Island

This is an increase in the weekly payment of certain payments from the DSP, or the EU equivalent, to people who are aged 66 or over and living on a specified island off the coast of Ireland. The Increase for Living on a Specified Islandis to compensate for the additional costs of living on these islands compared to living on the mainland.

Household Benefits Package

The Household Benefits Package includes the Electricity or Natural Gas Allowance and a Free TV Licence (the Telephone Allowance was discontinued in 2014). If you are aged 70 or over, you qualify regardless of your income or who lives with you. The scheme may also be available to people aged 66 and over who get certain social welfare payments or whose income is below certain limits. Apply to the Department of Social Protection.

Free travel

If you are over the age of 66 or getting a carers' or certain other social welfare payments, you can get a Free Travel Pass, entitling you to free travel at any time on bus, road, rail and DART services operated by Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann, LUAS services, the Aran Islands ferry service and on certain private services which have opted into the scheme.

You can also use your Free Travel Pass on any of the 34 schemes under the Rural Transport Initiative. People who are entitled to free travel are also entitled to have their spouse/partner travel free with them or may be entitled to a Companion Pass on medical grounds. The Free Travel Scheme also covers public transport services in Northern Ireland for people over 66 years of age. To use this service you must have a Senior SmartPass Card.

National Fuel Scheme

The National Fuel Scheme is a means-tested payment to help people who cannot afford their own heating costs. You may qualify if you get certain payments from the Department of Social Protection or the EU equivalent.

Carers

If you are providing full-time care to someone who is ill or incapacitated, you may qualify for a carer’s payment. More information is available in our document on payments to carers.

Housing

Housing Aid for Older People Scheme

The Housing Aid for Older People Scheme is a local authority grant used to improve homes that are below basic standards. It is targeted mainly at older people living in rural areas. By paying the grant the local authority aims to help the person stay in his/her own home. Contact your local authority.

Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability

If your home needs to be adapted to enable you to continue to live there, you may qualify for a Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability. Contact your local authority.

Mobility Aids Grants Scheme

The Mobility Aids Grant Scheme provides grants to address mobility problems in the home, for example, the grant can be used for access ramps or a stair-lift.

Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme

Under this scheme, services like attic insulation and draught-proofing are provided to low-income households nationwide. There is no charge. Read more about the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme

Refuse and water charges

In some local authority areas, low-income households can avail of a waiver (that is, a reduction or total exemption) on waste and water charges made by private operators and by local authorities. These waivers vary greatly from region to region and in some areas they are not available at all. To find out if your local authority operates a waiver scheme, you should contact them directly.

Working in retirement

If you are getting a means-tested payment, working or being self-employed affects the amount of that payment. You should check with the Department of Social Protection before taking up work to see what the effect will be. You can have up to €200 earnings from insurable employment without affecting your State Pension (Non-Contributory).

See moving from work to retirement for more information on working in retirement, income tax etc.

Further information and application forms are available from your local Citizen Information Centre and the Citizens Information Phone Service at Lo-Call 0761 07 4000.

Page updated: 31 January 2014

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Contact Us

If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.