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Monday, 14 October 1991
Page: 1892

(Question No. 1010)

Mr Harry Woods asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 August 1991:

(1) Was the cut-off date for women aged at least (a) 50 or (b) 45 in receipt of a sole parent's pension to retain or be granted a widow's pension set at 1 July 1987; if so, why.

(2) Were recipients of pensions other than the sole parent's pension considered for the eligibility referred to in part (1) (b); if not, why not.

(3) Were only women considered for eligibility to the widow's pension; if so, why.

(4) Is the Government phasing out the widow's pension; if so, why.

(5) Will the Government reinstate the widow's pension; if not, why not.

Mr Howe —-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) Since 1 July 1987, widow B pension has been granted only to eligible women who were at least 50 years of age at that date or who were at least 45 years of age at that date and received class A widow's pension or supporting parent's pension (or sole parent pension which later replaced these payments) on or after that date. This approach to the phasing out of widow B pension was taken to avoid causing hardship to women who were already receiving this pension or who had a reasonable expectation of eligibility.

(2) No. The continued eligibility for grant for those aged 45 to 49 years recognised the greater transitional needs of women who faced particular barriers to labour force participation because of their age and time spent outside the labour force raising children alone.

(3) Since its introduction in 1942, widow B pension has been payable only to women. The rationale then was that married women were traditionally expected to be economically dependent on their husbands and it was considered appropriate to provide income support to a woman who was deserted, divorced or survived her spouse.

(4) and (5) Widow B pension provisions have been anomalous. In recent years the social security system has been restructured so that it meets the needs of people in today's society. Widow pension was introduced almost 50 years ago when community values and expectations about the role of women were different from those of today. In more recent years the participation of women in the workforce has increased significantly.