The Deputy will be aware of the sustainability issues regarding pensions in Ireland and the pension reform measures underway to try to address some of these issues including the raising of State pension age which has already been provided for in primary legislation.
Currently, the State pension (transition) is available to those who fulfil the qualifying criteria and the normal rules continue to apply for those transferring over from another social welfare payment.
As part of the pension reform measures underway, this will change in 2014. While the current State pension age of 66 remains, the State pension (transition) which applies for one year for persons of age 65 will cease from 2014. Thereafter, State pension age will increase to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028.
In relation to pension reform, as Irish society has changed, pensions policy has evolved to reflect these changes. A key focus of mine has been to ensure that the State pension is sustainable in light of demographic changes and the associated increases in pension costs. This challenge is compounded by the wider need for sustainable public finances. Our primary consideration in making the changes we have made to reform pensions has been to ensure that pensions are adequate and the system is on a financially sound and sustainable footing.
For those with an income need social welfare schemes will continue to be available, for those who fulfil the eligibility criteria.
I can confirm that a forum to consider the retirement and longer working considerations which may result from the changes to State pension age is currently being scheduled by my Department. The purpose of this forum is to enable the representatives of the various government departments, social partners and other interest groups to engage and consider the issues involved.
We will always continue to provide the normal supports to those who can't, for whatever reason, continue working or find themselves in financial difficulty.