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Scheme for low-income pensioners aims to streamline application process

senior, elderly, pensioner, old people

The new allowance scheme for low-income pensioners will simplify application and evaluation processes, resolving key time-consuming weaknesses in the existing system, deputy minister for social welfare Anastasia Anthousi said on Wednesday.

She was speaking at a press conference held to present the new scheme, which was approved by the council of ministers on November 30 and is due to be implemented from January 1, 2023.

Anthousi said that based on the estimates of her deputy ministry, the new plan is expected to cover an additional 1,200 pensioners on average, judging from the applications submitted during the previous extensions granted under the previous system until 2020.

“In addition to fixing the small weaknesses that existed until now, the new plan is the culmination of the government’s planning to support low-income pensioners,” she said.

Anthousi said that the 30,000 pensioners who are already beneficiaries of the low-income pensioner allowance do not need to reapply for it as they will automatically be included in the new plan.

“This is an important decision, and the culmination of three other revisions on the scheme which preceded it in 2016, 2019 and 2020,” she said, adding that the maximum monthly benefit per person has gradually increased by 105 per cent for each beneficiary from 2013 to date.

This, she stressed, also ensured that all beneficiaries will have total incomes above the poverty line.

An important parameter of the new scheme is the decoupling of the low-income pensioners’ allowance from the obligation to submit a parallel application for the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI), she highlighted.

“This provision caused long delays in the examination of the applications and the payment of benefits, both for low-income pensioners and GMI recipients, but also confusion to the applicants,” Anthousi said, explaining that the process is now being simplified.

Under the new plan, low-income pensioners will also be able to apply if they received the corresponding allowance before 2014 but did not reapply by the end of the 2020 extension, for whatever reason.

The new plan corrects “the complex and time-consuming process of examining applications,” head of the deputy ministry’s benefits management service Yiannos Vassiliades said.

“From January 1, 2023, procedures will be simplified along with timeframes and application processes, so that everything is done in the shortest possible way”.

According to the deputy ministry’s presentation, a household with one pensioner will receive a total monthly benefit of €710 to €834, while a household with two pensioners will receive a total monthly benefit of €1,210 to €1,271.

The new scheme will also extend the property alienation control period from 24 months to 36 months, while introducing a deposit criterion of up to €30,000 for the provision of an Easter allowance to low-income pensioners.

Those eligible are pensioners and pensioner households with an annual total income below the defined poverty line (including the pension of all household members).

All low-income pensioners, including former recipients, will have the right to apply for the new scheme.

Persons who received the allowance until September 2014 also have the right to apply, regardless of whether they had not applied for the GMI until December 2020, as well as those whose applications were rejected.

Households will be eligible if their annual gross income is below the income threshold, which amounts to €10,324 for a single-person household and €15,486 for a two-person household, adjusted according to the composition of the family.

According to the scheme, the deposits of potential beneficiaries must not exceed €100,000 in total per household, taking into account any alienation of deposits made during the period of 36 months preceding the year of application.

On the delays observed in the examination of applications, Anthousi said it was important for those interested to book appointments at citizens’ service centres to make sure all information is submitted correctly and under the guidance of specialized officials, as a lot of the delays were due to many of the applications being incomplete.

Asked whether there will be electronic submissions, the deputy minister said that it was the goal, noting however that there were concerns that the elderly would not be able to submit an application online, which is why applications are available by appointment.

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