Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions (421)

Peter Mathews

Question:

421. Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection if an information campaign will be launched to make persons aware of the changes to the transition pension from 2014 onward; the steps those who are unprepared take; if there will be any discretion given to persons who must retire at 65 years and will have no income until 66; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8446/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The State pension transition (SPT) is paid for a maximum of 12 months and is available to people who are retired from work on reaching age 65 years provided they satisfy the necessary PRSI contributions. In December 2012, there were approximately 14,400 customers in receipt of SPT.

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided for changes to State pension age. From 1st January 2014 the abolition of SPT will standardise the age for payment of a State pension to 66 years. In addition, the age at which State pension (contributory) (SPC) will be payable will increase to 67 years from 2021 and to 68 years from 2028.

The abolition of SPT removes the retirement condition which acts as an incentive for people to leave the workforce and has been widely criticised as a barrier to older people remaining in employment. There is no retirement condition attached to the SPC. A person who retires from work on reaching age 65 may apply for another social welfare payment, depending on their individual circumstances.

In February 2012, my Department held meetings with the representative groups for older people to outline the changes to SPT and SPC. Feedback was sought from these groups and included in an information pack that was prepared to further publicise the changes to the scheme. The finalised information pack was published in early March 2012 on the Department’s website, www.welfare.ie and was also made available through the Citizens Information Board website www.citizensinformation.ie. A link to the information pack was also tweeted to the Department's followers on Twitter. It was widely circulated to customer representative groups including those representing older people, working age groups, farming groups, trade unions, employer groups, accountancy bodies etc. It was also forwarded to all members of the Oireachtas. Presentations on the introduction of these changes were also made at the Department’s regular briefings with customer representative groups and to members of the public over the course of the year. A further information campaign is planned for quarter 2, 2013 to continue to raise awareness of the changes.