Invalidity pension hits lowest number of beneficiaries ever in over 20 years

3,996 persons were registered as receiving a government invalidity pension in 2018, the lowest figure since 1993

The number of people who received a government invalidity pension last year stood at its lowest level since 1993
The number of people who received a government invalidity pension last year stood at its lowest level since 1993

The number of people registered as receiving a government invalidity pension during 2018 stood at 3,996, the lowest it has been since 1993.

A contributory invalidity pension, commonly referred to as being ‘boarded out’, is granted to individuals who are certified as being incapable for suitable full-time employment or regular part-time employment due to a serious disease of bodily or mental impairment.

The number of individuals receiving such a pension, peaked at 9,491 in 2006 and has been steadily decreasing since. During this period, government expenditure on invalidity pension dropped from roughly €37 million to just under €22 million.

A spokesperson for the Social Solidarity ministry said the reversal was due to “legal and operational changes” implemented in 2007.

“Impairment tables for invalidity pension purposes based on a points system became part of the Social Security Act, changes to the application were also made, including a detailed medical report which was now required to be completed by the treating GP or specialist,” the spokesperson said.

They added that changes were also implemented to the medical evaluation process, with applicants now no longer being seen by a medical panel which would in the past “subjectively” make a decision with limited medical information provided. Instead, applications were now assessed by doctors contracted by the department who would “objectively assess” cases in line with the the impairment tables and related guidelines.

“These changes led to a constant decline in the number of invalidity pensioners since 2007,” the spokesperson said.

In addition to the changes in eligibility for such a pension, the spokesperson said other factors may have contributed to the decline in recent years, including “pension deferral incentives in the form of percentage pension increases for persons who opt to continue working rather than retire early”.

The measure is intended to incentivise workers nearing the age of retirement to remain in employment in exchange for a higher pension.

The spokesperson explained that in the past, persons nearing their pensionable age who might feel physically or mentally unfit for work, would tend to explore the possibility of being boarded-out instead of switching to part-time work during their last years before retirement.

Such persons, the spokesperson said, now had less of a reason to consider this an option.

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