Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Questions (299)

Joan Collins

Question:

299. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to protect and improve the living standards of pensioners. [24277/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The biggest single block of expenditure in the Department is expenditure on pensions which will amount to €6.5 billion or 33% of overall expenditure this year. It is expected that demographic change will see this grow, e.g., approximately 17,000 additional pensioners are in receipt of State pension each year, and in 2013 the Department had to make provision for an additional €190 million for the increasing number of pensioners. The overall concern of the Government in recent budgets has been to protect the primary weekly social welfare rates. Maintaining the rate of the State pension and other core payments is critical in protecting people from poverty.

Whilst an objective of the pension system in Ireland is to provide an adequate and sustainable basic standard of living through direct State supports, it is also to encourage people (through tax reliefs) to make supplementary pension provision so that they may have an adequate replacement income when they retire from work. The State pension has been successful in ensuring older people have an adequate income. However, many people retiring from work will have a significant income gap if they do not have supplementary pension provision. Recent figures indicate that only half of workers aged between 20 and 69 years have a supplementary pension and this relatively low coverage is of concern. Accordingly, it is a priority for the Government to increase supplementary pension coverage and the Programme for Government includes a commitment to reforming the pension system to progressively achieve universal coverage, with particular focus on lower-paid workers.